Saturday, April 18, 2015

Top 5 Wineries to Visit in Lazio



A few weeks ago, Winerist asked me to guest blog on their site, so I wrote a post on Lazio and wine called Top 5 Wineries to Visit in Lazio.
The premise of the article is to get people visiting Rome and who have some extra time to visit these wonderful towns and wineries that are so much closer than Tuscany. 

Click on the link to read the article. 

If you are interested in visiting wine country in Lazio, contact us at info@antiquatours.com

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Special Tasting with Eko Glonti of Lagvinari in Rome



SOLD OUT!! 

On Thursday, February 5 at 19:30 Beppe e i suoi formaggi will host producer Georgian wine producer Eko Glonti as he will personally present seven natural wines from Lagvinari, the company he founded in Kakheti.  Eko Glonti, Gurian Renaissance man, doctor, geologist and vigneron makes some of the most exquiste wines in Georgia.  His Tsolikouri is one of the best wines I have ever tasted. You can also find him featured in Isabelle Legeron's film on Georgian wine. 
 
Georgia is one of the oldest centers of cultivation of the vine, as well as the country with the highest ampelographical diversity and thus the country with the highest amount of different grape varieties in the world. 

During the tasting Eko Glonti will discuss the production of his exquisite wines and also illustrate the technique of Georgian wine production in "qvevri" (amphorae), the oldest wine vessel int he world traced back to 6,000 BCE. Discover the birthplace of wine, Georgia, which boasts 8,000 years of uninterrupted wine making tradition. We will (re)discover the wines of ancient Georgia (Colchis) even in Homer's Odyssey and in the Argonauts of Apollonius of Rhodes.

We will have the event in both English and Italian. Dr. Glonti will guide us thorugh a tasting of the following seven wines:

Tsolikouri-A golden yellow wine made in qvevri with 45 days of skin contact. Aromas of plums, stone fruit and apples as well as honeyed notes. Taste is fresh and highly acidic, which is typical of the grape. Long nutty finish, tastes of hazelnuts.

Tsitska-Straw colored wine with aromas of citrus, pear and vegetation as well as honey aromas and melon. It is very lively and fresh. Produced in qvevri.

Krakhuna-Amber in color, fermented and aged in qvevri, plums, peaches, honey and dates as well as hazelnut and cake. It is very lively and complex on the palate with nutty flavors that end with a touch of honey flavor.

Goruli Mtsvane-Amber/copper in color, nutty aromas, herbal notes, peach tea, stone fruit, Very pleasant taste that is fresh but with rather structured tannins.

Aladusturi-Pale cherry color. Aladusturi is a thin skinned grape Sour cherries, herbal notes, and sweet spices as well as berries. It is a rather elegant wine with a long cherry finish.


Otskhanuri Sapere-Beetroot red in color. Very aromatic and sharp aromas of berries, with wild and green notes as well. as well as balsamic notes. It is a highly acidic wine that should be aged for a number of years. Evolves in the glass and in the bottle

Saperavi-The only non qvevri wine of the line, Saperavi is a thick skin grape that means Dye. It is thick skinned and one of the few grapes on earth that also has pigment in the pulp. This creates extremely inky and deeply colored wines. Ripe cherries, wild berries, tobacco aromas, wild green notes, red currents, bitter walnuts. It is extremely complex n the nose and in the palate. It is very structured with juicy tannins and a fresh, long berry finish.
Seven Georgian Wines Lagvinari: Tsitska - Tsolikouri - Goruli Mtsvane - Krkahuna - Aladusturi - Otskhanuri Knowing - Saperavi

For information on the tasting call 06 68192210 RESERVATIONS ARE REQUIRED!! PLEASE CALL!!

The event is supported by the National Wine Agency, Georgia. For more information about Georgian wines: www.facebook.com/tastegeorgiawine and www.tastegeorgia.co


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Top 9 Italian Craft Beers




We tasted a lot of beer over the semester, here Antiqua Tours intern Anna Aguillard shares our top 9.

Top 9: Italian Craft Beers

Most Italian traditions are ancient: Ancient wine, ancient food, ancient religions, and ancient architecture. But amidst the country’s thousand-year-old ruins, a new trend is gaining momentum: craft beer.

Emerging in 1996 when Teo Musso founded Birrificio Baladin, one of the country’s leading breweries, the craft beer movement has taken off within the past five years. Like all things Italian, the country’s craft breweries seek to produce beers that reflect their respective regions’ unique cultures and crafts. Bursting with seasonal, regional, and natural ingredients, the craft beer movement embodies modern Italy: a combination of traditional respect for quality ingredients, and innovative culinary trajectory.

Because the craft beer industry is so young, it is obviously still in a state of evolution. Even so, with hundreds of breweries turning out an overwhelming variety of brews, understanding the Italian craft beer world can seem daunting - especially to the casual beer drinker, who doesn’t know the difference between an ale and a lager.

Beer Basics
Depending on the type of yeast used to ferment the beer, all brews can be categorized as either ales or lagers. Ales are brewed with ale yeast, and are fermented at warmer temperatures. Lagers, in contrast, are brewed with lager yeast at cooler temperatures. The most flavorful, robust, and complex brews tend to fall within the many, many distinct categories of ales; which explains why most Italian breweries produce ales – from Weizens to Pale Ales, Italy’s craft beer industry knows no boundaries.

Weizen (or Blanche) beer is a style of ale brewed using a large proportion of wheat malt, with a light, refreshing, and distinctly yeasty flavor. Saisons are light, dry, and citric seasonal brews made in farmhouse breweries using local, unique grains. Belgian ales are brewed with Belgian yeast, and are usually complex and spicy. India Pale Ales (IPAs) are strong, bitter brews with an extra dose of hops and alcohol, born out of necessity when British beer kept spoiling during long sea voyages. Sour Fruit Ales are brewed with wild yeast, bacteria, and fruit, and can take years to ferment and mature. Radlers are ales infused with sparkling juice moments before serving, and are just as refreshing as the process suggests.

Overwhelmed? This is just a small glance into the endless categories of ales. With so many options, the real difficulty comes in choosing only one. And, as Rome is quickly becoming known as the “capital” of Italian craft beer, the options are almost limitless. After sampling, approving, and rejecting nearly too many craft beers to count, we have compiled a list of nine of our personal favorites.



Top 9 Italian Craft Beers:

  1. ReAle Extra, Birra del Borgo - IPA
A product of Lazio’s Birra del Borgo, this IPA lives up to its name: it is definitely extra hoppy. Crisp and sharp with lingering notes of caramel, this brew is perfect for IPA fans looking to sample an Italian take on the British classic.
  1. Patela, Troll – Belgian Ale
Birrifico Troll brews this fruity, sweet ale fermented with Belgian yeast. Patela is a very drinkable beer, perfect for fans of yeasty beers. Slightly funky and very ripe, it has a much stronger aroma than it does taste.
  1. Imperial Zest, Extraomnes – Belgian Ale
Lombardia-based brewery Extraomnes produces this rugged, persistent Belgian strong ale. This beer is light in weight but most certainly not in flavor. Bursting with distinct fruitiness and delicate spice, its finish is dry, sharp, and prolonged; a great example of an Italian take on Belgian style ale.
  1. Yellow Monster, Toccalmatto – Imperial Radler
Definitely the most unique brew sampled, this Radler was pumped through a special citrus juice-infuser moments before it was served. Brewed by Toccalmatto brewery in the Emilia Romagna region of Northern Italy, it has strong, lingering flavors of lemon and ginger.
  1. Farrotta, Almond 22 – Specialty grain
Another very unique brew, Almond 22’s Farrotta is brewed with organic spelt and organic acacia honey from local beekeepers in Abruzzo. A perfect example of the typical Italian utilization of regional ingredients, this golden beer is dry, grassy, and very distinct in flavor.
  1. D’uvabeer, Loverbeer – Sour Fruit Ale
D’uvabeer is one of Piemonte-based Loverbeer’s most popular sour ales, and for good reason: the perfect starting point for those new to sour ales, it is infused with intense fruit flavors like grapes and berries. Savor this beer – each sip offers a unique combination of sweet, sour, smooth flavors.
  1. Midgal Bavel, Extraomnes – Saison
Extraomnes makes a second appearance on our list with this aromatic, seasonal brew with a funky, sour aftertaste. Its flavor is robust and very complex; its uncommon taste made this one of the most interesting beers tested.
  1. Duchessa, Birra del Borgo – Saison
This beer made by Birra del Borgo in Lazio is made from faro and spelt, ancient grains nearing extinction. This brew is sharp, bitter, and almost spicy, with a mouth-watering, lingering finish.
  1. Open White, Birrificio Baladin – Blanche/Weizen
Brewed in Piemonte by the very Birrificio Baladin that started the craft-beer revolution, this light, summery blanche brew is a beautiful, clear, golden color. Its initially sweet, citrus flavor fades into a nutty aftertaste; this beer is fruity, without an overwhelming taste of hops, and a perfect, crispy, refreshing brew.

Craving some Italian craft beer? Check out Open Baladin near Campo de Fiori, or the world-renowned artisan beer pub in Trastevere called Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fà. Or, make it easy on yourself – organize a craft beer tasting with us during your next visit to Rome. Cin Cin!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Gaanatlos Ruben Tkeshelashvili!


Ruben Tkeshelashvili
Some knew him as "The General," others, simply as Ruben.  He was a qvevri wine maker in Racha, a mountainous region in the Republic of Georgia known for a semi-sweet red wine called Khvanchara. Local legend says that Stalin was a fan of his wine. We were visiting Iago's Winery last weekend when I happened to mention to my friend Irakli that he really needed to pay a visit to Ruben before he died. Iago told us he had died two days previous.  I think he was a national treasure.  I had the honor of visiting his marani last October with my Rachan guide Natia and my friend Nicoletta.  I went to Racha to lean how to make a bean pastry called lobiani, but I was also on a mission to meet Ruben.  We visited him unannounced one morning and he was there, in his camouflaged glory, grumbling to himself about the inconvenience.  A grumpy, opinionated old man whose eyes sparkled with the joy of living.
He was alone now, but he spoke proudly of his highly educated granddaughter who spoke perfect English.  His qvevri were buried under about a foot of mud. He placed some snacks on a table in his marani and then went to work to open one for us with the help of local young vigneron, Aleco Sardanashvili.  They poured the luscious and precious wine into a doki, with small glasses that resembled Turkish tea glasses, we toasted to our health, to Georgia, to our families and many other ideas and things.  Natia informed me we had to toast and accept the wine and to drink it with him or we would be breaking all the laws of hospitality.  By about 11am, I was completely inebriated.  He poured another doki, and we, his guests, had to toast.  Passing the toasting to another person in Georgian is called, Alaverdi (like the wine making monastery in Kakheti). 
In short, it was a moment in my life that I will never forget. Visiting an old man in his 80s, who was still making traditional qvevri wine and honoring the ancient codes of Georgian hospitality-whose eyes had seen many changes in the world and who remained steadfast,-was an honor.  As the Georgians say- he has moved on.  The world will never have another like him. I am consoled knowing that there are young vignerons like Aleco Sardanashvili who continue this tradition in Racha.

Thank you to Natia for organizing this visit for me.  It was a huge honor.

GAANATLOS RUBEN!  May you rest in peace!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Impossible Valais with José Vouillamoz.




Have you ever been to an event, where you had no idea why you were there, or why you were invited? One where you look around at the people and the atmosphere, and you think to yourself, “I am out of my league here.” This happened to me a few weeks ago. It was one of the most unique and riveting tastings of my wine career, with people I liked and admired, that was led and organized by one of the world's leading ampelologists and wine sleuths; the highly celebrated co-author of Wine Grapes, José Vouillamoz. He called it Impossible Valais and said it was the most exciting tasting he had ever organized. Whether I was worthy, I’m still unsure, but I was an interested student ready to soak up any and all information to the best of my ability.
José Vouillamoz is the ultimate wine geek, in the best sense of the term. A botanist trained in grape genetics, he is a champion of rare grape varieties, and willing to get his hands dirty in order to recover them from near extinction. His knowledge is encyclopedic, and he is akin to a treasure hunter when it comes to wines and wine grapes. He searches for lost grapes and supports the vignerons who preserve them. He wears obscure band t-shirts, has a dry sense of humor, he's humble and one of my favorite people to taste wine with. He's the one at the party with the conversation piece; you just know he'll have the strangest and most interesting bottle of wine in a room full of wine geeks. It is a privilege to taste with him. He has an acute sense of smell and taste with fantastic anecdotal descriptors. At his “Rare Swiss Wines” seminar at the Digital Wine CommunicationsConference, he described the bitter quality of one of the wines as the taste you have in your mouth when you are watching TV with a bowl of cherries but are too lazy to get up to throw away the pit so you roll it around on your tongue, that kind of bitter. He is truly a man of class and wit.
He's true to his craft, he's a scientist, and his opinions are backed up by inarguable facts, but he's also hilarious and is never short on great one-liners. With a witty tongue quicker than John Wayne's trigger finger, he’s a breath of fresh air in the frequently stuffy and rigid wine community. When you are with him in a social setting, or at a tasting, you wish you'd brought an audio recorder to capture all his José-isms, (my term, I want to write a book based on these).
We need him. The world's best wine professionals descended on Montreux for the DWCC for a weekend of learning, and we can thank José Vouillamoz and his mission to put Swiss Wines on the map for schooling us all in their virtue and rarity. Thanks to José many of us look at Swiss wine through a new lens. 12 lucky participants had the opportunity to travel through his motherland for three days with him, tasting some of the best and rarest wines of Switzerland, beginning with the Impossible Valais tasting at Sensorama at Châteaude Villa in Sierre.
Though we'd all had ample opportunity to taste a multitude of Swiss wines over the weekend, I don't believe any of us were emotionally prepared for the once-in-a-lifetime tasting that José called
Impossible Valais. He explained that “impossible” referred to the rarity of the wines we'd taste. The wines bordered on the sublime, ranging from rare and “archaeological” grapes to the truly perfect 1971 Petite Arvine. Le Valais produces some of the most incredible wines I have ever tasted, but before the conference in Montreux and this trip, the only Swiss wine I ever had was young Fendant. I have since learned that Fendant/Chasselas should be considered a very serious wine. Yet, it is virtually impossible to find these gems outside of Switzerland. They export only 2% of the wines they produce and produce 0.2% of the world's wine so it is no surprise that many people have no idea that Swiss wine even exists. The standing joke is that they export so little of their wine because it is so good that they (the Swiss) drink them all before the rest of the world has a chance.
I never knew that there was so much diversity, that white Swiss wines can age, and well. There is certainly nothing more educational than guided tastings and full immersion in a wine region. Now, after seeing the heroic vineyards and tasting the wines crafted by generous people, I am converted. Swiss wines verge on the magical, they are spirited and convey the essence of the land and people. Well crafted and generous. I hope that we will see more of these wines in the international market, without compromising their spirit. The wines we tasted at the Impossible Valais tasting were thoughtful, rare and the beginning of a very emotional wine love story.


The wines

Wine: Plantscher
Producer: Chanton Kellerei
Grape: Gros Bourgogne
Vintage: 2007
Notes: Gros Bourgogne is indeed a rare grape, there are only .05 ha and only one producer, Chanton, who are at the center of rare grape preservation in Valais. Lovely golden yellow color with notes of apples, apricots, honey and chamomile. Fresh, dry and with a silky texture.

Wine: Arvine Primus Classicus
Producer: Orsat
Grape: Petite Arvine
Vintage: 1988
Notes: 1988 was an interesting vintage because it was raining during the harvest. The skins broke and thus created very unique and gorgeous wines. It was a complex wine. Green apples, mint, passion fruit, melon and chamomile. I fell in love with this wine because it had a hint of wild fermentation flavor which recalled kombucha tea or sauerkraut, lots of citrus and a very persistent finish. It was lovely and racy. Un vino importante.

Wine: Arvine
Producer: Provins
Grape: Petite Arvine
Vintage: 1971
Notes: Exquisite wine that was everything about autumn poured into a glass. Marmalade, leaves, chestnuts, pumpkins, citrus along with figs, dates, quince and fermenting cheese. This was an extremely complex bouquet that I wanted to come back to. Despite its 43 years of age it was fresh and well balanced with the acid matched with an oily texture.

Wine: Amigne
Producer: Provins
Grape: Amigne
Vintage: 1967
Notes: Amigne is an autochthonous grape from the Valais, there are 42 ha in the world and they are mostly near the town of Vétroz. I have to admit that I fell in love with this grape over the course of the conference and then this tasting. I find it quite exotic even when young. The 1967 was very pleasant and reminded me of distant lands. Candied fruit, Turkish delight, rose water,
tarocco oranges, chestnuts and dates. It was pleasantly dry despite such sweet notes.

Wine: Johannisberg St-Théodule
Producer: Orsat
Grape: Silvaner
Vintage: 1955
Notes: 1955 is considered the vintage of the century in Switzerland. Orange peel, lilies, honey and baby powder. Extremely fresh and vibrant with long persistent citrus taste.

Wine: Rouge de Pays
Producer: Stéfano Délitroz
Grape: Rouge de Pays
Vintage: 2011
Notes: This is made from grapes from 80-year-old ungrafted vines that are erroneously called Cornalin in Switzerland. It was very “meaty” with a hint of chinotto, with lots of briny notes, like olives, which was reflected on the palate along with red berries. Rich tannins and full body with a persistent finish. A well balanced and meaty wine. I would like to taste it in about 10 years.

Wine: Côte Rotie La Torque
Producer: Guigal
Grape: Syrah
Vintage: 2001
Notes: We tasted two Syrahs blindly, one French and one Swiss All we knew going it was that one was French and one was Swiss. This one was more impressive for me but I think it was context. We had just tasted some serious wines, and I think my palate was much more responsive to this richer tasting wine at the time. Rich nose of berries, fennel pollen, licorice, anise, wet stones, balsamic notes and pepper. On the palate it was juicy with really immense tannins. Very enjoyable wine.

Wine: Vieilles Vignes Syrah
Producer: Simon Maye & Fils
Grape: Syrah
Vintage: 2001
Notes: I think my nose and palate deceived me because my tasting notes are quite sparse after the first syrah. It had green notes, berries. It has less tannic than the first and I think suffered from reduction. Perhaps over the course of a few hours it would show better. I quite enjoyed tasting Syrah at the winery and in fact tasted the best Syrah I have ever tasted there.

Wine: Crystal Eyholzer Roter Eiswein
Producer: Chanton Kellerei
Grape:Eyholzer Roter
Vintage: 2008
Notes: One of the most unique wines I have ever tasted. Made from the Eyholzer Roter wine grape, an extremely rare grape with a unique DNA profile. Only .25 ha of it are produced by one producer. According to Wine Grapes, “ One ancient vine 150-250 years old, has been found near Visp, in the town of Stalden, and an even older one in the middle of the town of Sion, some 50 km from Visp.” Magnificent amber colour. Wild strawberries, freshly burnt sugar cane fields and molasses on the nose. Tastes confirms the nose. Strawberries, crème brûlée, opulent and sweet balanced by racy acidity that lingers. Long and intense finish. A superb wine.

Wine: Vin du Glacier
Producer: Bourgeoisie de Grimentz
Grape:n Rèze
Vintage: Solera 1886
Notes: Glacier wine production involves the transportation of finished wine up into the cooler, higher altitudes in the Val d’Annivers. The wine is produced using the solera system in which new wine is added to existing wine that is stored in larch barrels. The rèze grape was one of the most widespread varieties in the Valais before phylloxera in the late 19th century, today it grown on about 2 ha. A very interesting wine with marmalade and retsina notes, Madeira aromas and caramel. Briny on the palate. I would call this a meditation wine. It is profoundly unique and deserves a more romantic setting for consumption. 

#winelovers
 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Orange Wine for Beginners

Realizing that I am used to orange wine at this point, I take it for granted that many wine consumers are not and this may make approaching them intimidating. Two weeks ago,  I asked Antiqua Tours intern Anna to write a short post to introduce these spectacular wines to the general public.  She did a great job! 

The sublime orange wine from the Alaverdi Monastery in Kakheti, Republic of Georgia


When I was first introduced to orange wine, I had no idea what to expect – is it wine flavored with orange peel? Is it some kind of more complex alcoholic beverage made from fermented oranges? Or is it none of the above?

Turns out, it’s the latter. This trendy new wine phenomenon has nothing at all to do with citrus. Believe it or not, orange wine is made from the same white grapes that make traditional wine. Orange wine is, simply put, wine made from these white grapes, but produced and fermented like red. New to the world of wine as I am, however, I need more than the simple definition to gain an actual understanding of what orange wine is.

When making a traditional white wine, producers crush the grapes, immediately separating the juice from the skins before fermentation. When making a red wine, however, producers leave the grapes to macerate and ferment with their skins, a vital part of flavor development that contributes to the red wine’s color, texture, and bitterness.

The discarded skins from white grapes contain color pigments and tannins that detract from the light and bright flavor typical of white wine. However, although leaving the grapes in contact with their skins doesn’t produce the “typical” flavor, it produces something equally desirable: a smoky, spicy, acidic, and orange wine that pairs well with almost all savory dishes.

Although this wine trend may only recently be gaining popularity among modern wine enthusiasts, its roots can be traced back thousands of years to Armenia and Georgia. It’s how white wines used to be made, and it’s now experiencing a renaissance from wineries in northern Italy, Georgia, Croatia, Slovenia, and parts of France and California.

If you sip an orange wine with the expectation that it will be light like a white, you will be entirely thrown off. That is why some people initially dislike the stronger, more pungent taste. These wines may take some getting used to; but even I enjoyed the complex flavors I tasted in the orange wine Sarah introduced me to at Litro.

Orange wine is usually made in small quantities by small producers, so they don’t come cheap and cannot be picked up at your local supermarket. In researching online, I kept running into a few labels that reviewers frequently recommended – Gravner and Vodopivec from Italy, and Lagvinari from Georgia. If you can’t locate these, just find a natural wine bar and try a glass, served at cellar temperature, as a test run. If you try it with an open mind, I’m willing to bet that you will enjoy the indescribable flavors that explode from the smallest sip of orange wine. 

If you are interested in organizing a tasting of Orange Wine, please feel free to contact us.  

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Taste Georgia at the Digital Wine Communications Conference




The Digital Wine Communications Conference is an annual conference that will take place in Montreux, Switzerland this year.  This will be the third conference I will be attending and the second I will be participating as a panel member.  On October 31st, I will be representing Georgian wine and Taste Georgia while pouring wine made in qvevri at the Disrupt Wine Talks reception between 18:00 and 19:30.  

I will also be a panel member for a session called "Bloggers Without Blogs." We will be talking about the effectiveness of social media in non blog form in the wine community.  This session will start at 9:30 on November 1st.

If you are at the conference and want to learn more about Georgian wine and food, please come say hi and taste the wines we are presenting.