The Organic Cellar

Vendemmia With Edo: Picking Grapes In Chianti

In September 2011 I was lucky enough to be studying Italian in Umbria at the University for Foreigners in Perugia, just a two or three hour train ride from nearly anywhere in Tuscany. One lucky day I got an email from my friend Edoardo Dilaghi, owner of Allegretti, inviting me to help with the harvest. Here's a collection of images from that weekend, mixed with a few from an earlier trip to the vineyard. 

It was a ton of fun and good hard work. We were all well rewarded with some incredible wines and amazing meals put together by Mama. Check out all of Allegretti's Organic wines here.

The Advocate and The Winemaker - A Perfect Family Farm in Montepulciano

 

The Most Wonderful Place on Earth, Montepulciano, Italy

There are a few lucky times in life when you feel truly at home. I have had the pleasure of feeling this more than my fair share, and never more than when visiting the Roberti Family in  Montepulciano, Italy. 

The Roberti's are part of an ancient Italian line of accomplished lawyers, doctors, statesmen, and now, winemakers. 

Saverio Roberti, is a revered lawyer from Rome where his pro bono work around his Campo Dei Fiori office earned him the love of locals. (He regularly receives bouquets to this day) His true love, however, was his farm home in Montepulciano where that his family bought as a ruin in the 1980's. The destroyed farm house as painstakingly converted into the family home over the past 30+ years and is surrounded by pristine farm land and stunning views of San Biagio, Montepulciano's remarkable renaissance church. While vacationing in Montepulciano Saverio and his family learned winemaking from the ground up, expanded their field holdings in the Vino Nobile DOCG region, and built a state of the art winemaking cantina for their new endeavor, Poggio San Gallo Farms and Agriturismo

Saverio's oldest daughter Olympia was taken by her father's new passion and began studying winemaking. Together they now operate one of the finest Vino Nobile di Montepulciano farms and have become a fixture in the small ancient city. 

If you ever visit Montepulciano, you must check out their farm and even stay with them at their agriturismo. It's a wonderful location just under the city, with expansive fields, a bird sanctuary on their lake, and all the grape picking, wine drinking, and olive oil making your happy little hands can handle. 

 

Check out the videis below for more info on the Robertis and buy a case of their incredible l'Attesa IGT Montepulciano on our site!

Here's a short video we made with Saverio and Olympia at their home farm in Montepulciano

 

For you Italian speakers out there, here's another video produced by the Roberti's with some more on their wonderful farm

Father's Day - What Dad Actually Wants

It's The Thought That Counts And We've Done The Thinking.

This Father's Day we're not mucking about with laziness. The days of neck ties, socks, and skymall purchases are through and this year we're setting you straight. It's easy to get Dad a great Father's Day gift... because we've done it for you. This six-pack is comprised of one white and five reds, all Italian classics that dad will know, or pretend to know. He won't be pretending when says he loves them. 

Retailing for $130, we've got them priced at $100. That's $30 you can put toward all the fine meats Dad is going to want to enjoy his wine with. Check them out below and buy it here!

Elle and Brian

 Daddy Loves You! Give Him The Wine He Needs!

Maccagno - Roero Arneis DOCG

$20, Vintage: 2010

The only white of the bunch is no wussy. The 100% Roero varietal is an honored grape in northern Italy and it can dish it as well as it can take it. This wine is bright and brimming with ripe golden apple and citrus-packed acidity that's at home with veggies as much as it is with steak tartar. Oh goodness, that's good. 

Casa al Vento - Aria Chianti Classico DOCG

$28, Vintage: 2007

The most classic of Classico's, just like your favorite guy. A 100% Sangiovese labored over for years by Italy's no. 1 winemaker, Stefano Chioccioli. It's one of the only Organic Certified Chianti Classico's and it's as good as they get. A top 100 wine in Italy and winner of a litany of other awards, this one is at home in Dad's trophy cabinet or his decanter. 

Camparo - Dolcetto di Diano d'Alba DOCG

$23, Vintage: 2008

Deep red juice with a berry bouquet and a velvet smooth almond finish... sounds like Dad in the height of his Disco-Era prime. Pair this with any of your favorite grilled dishes or favorite cheeses. Can you dig it?

Casa Wallace - Monferatto Rosso DOC

$24, Vintage: 2008

biodynamic blend of Northern Italian classics Dolcetto and Barbera with familiar Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. It's deep, memorable, and it blossoms when decanted. You'll find this wine in the hands of wine lovers who are often horizontally reclined on their favorite recliner, working on their swirling technique. 

Allegretti - l'Uzzolo Super Tuscan IGT

$19, Vintage: 2008

l'Uzzolo is a Super Tuscan by our very own Super Tuscan friend, Edoardo Dilaghi. A 50/50 blend of Cabernet and Merlot, it's big and round and it reflects the perfect soil and weather conditions of one of Chianti's most idyllic spots. It's gamey, rich, and pairs well with a big good cigar. This wine is Dad's new favorite. 

Odoardi - Savuto Rosso DOC

$15, Vintage: 2005

A blend of Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Magliocco Canino, Nerrello Cappuccio, Sangiovese... If your Dad is anything like mine then none of that will be pronounced well but it will be thoroughly enjoyed. Best paired with a fine cheese plate or a big complex meaty meal, this Calabrian wine is profound, just like Dad will be after a few glasses. 

 

Bubba and Elle!

Don't forget Grandpa!
 

Deal runs through Father's Day 2013 so don't dilly-dally, we've got limited quantities. GET IT HERE

Apellation Addendum I: Italy

I've decided the last post on apellations wasn't fulfilling enough so I'd like to take it a step further and confuse you a bit more. There's just too many countries and too many apellation designations to cover coherently in one brief post so I thought it useful to break it down by country starting with our golden goose, Italy.

Italy is the second largest wine producer in the world, only France produces more juice, and it has it has the most diverse collection of varietals under production of any country. We love Italy. 

The rolling hills of Piedmont's Langhe Region

The Vine Saturated Hills of Piedmont's Langhe Region, Home to Dozens of IGP, DOC, and DOCG Wines

The Basics

There are four apellation types we'll concern ourselves with here. They are Vino da Tavola, Indicazione Geografica Typica (IGP), Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC), and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). 

Vino da Tavola: Literally "Table Wine" is an essential part of both Italian and European culture in general. You'll find these on the menus of nearly any restaurant or cafe in Italy as well as the less dominant shelves of Italian markets. You'll often get exactly what you pay for with these local everyday wines that can range in quality from "Two Buck Yuck" to "Ohhhhhh Myyyyy". These have the lowest regulations for grape production density and can include grapes from anywhere in Italy. While we only have one in our portfolio it's a true Italian, with firm tannins, simple fruit complexion, and balanced acidity, it's a perfect food wine and an easy pick for nearly any meal. Here's a link to the Allegretti Rosso da Tavola. From a single vineyard in Chianti, it's an incredible value and perfectly at home on the American dinner table.

IGP: More restrictive than the Vino da Tavola, IGP's have allowed the advent of high value/non-traditional style Italian wines such as the world famous "Super-Tuscan". IGP regulations limit fruit density, define growing areas, and specify quality standards that have propelled Italy's forward thinking and artistic winemakers to new heights. The most essential part of IGP regulation is that it allows non-traditional grape varietals a venue to show their quality in regions generally saturated by typical Italian varietals. In the example of Super Tuscans, you'll see international varietals like Cab Sauv and Merlot or Syrah blended with Sangiovese in fantastic frankenstein wines that stand up against the very best Côtes du Rhône or Bordeaux blends. 

Sicilian IGP Chardonnay

Unfiltered Sicilian Chardonnay IGP, Straight From the Fermentation Tank

Because they're a-typical and artistic expressions of the winemakers behind them these IGP's can represent an incredible value for the  international wine lover. For the passionate wine explorer I suggest taking a tour of our Super Tuscans page.

Value wines also flourish in this category. Basic varietal-centric wines, like our Sicilian Rilento line, are excellent quality and crazy low-priced representations of international varieties from Chardonnay to Cab Suav for the everyday pallet. 

DOC and DOCG: Registered under the EU designation Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), These are the core of classic Italian wine. These wine designations are the pride of Italy and not given lightly to neither region nor producer. The difference between DOC and its big brother DOCG is not small but the idea behind them is essentially the same: Specific classic wine styles from classic regions are regulated and certified to ensure quality and typicality  and thus, high market value of those wines. The regulations are stricter than IGP in that they always restrict the grape varietals as well as the winemaking style.

Wikipedia Breaks Down Chianti Regulation

DOC is considered a step below DOCG, not always in quality but at least in terms of regulation. A DOC may be declared in a region after being an IGP style for 5 years and may become a DOCG style 10 years after that. DOCG's take regulation a step further in that wines must pass stricter analysis including expert tasting panel review to verify typical style. According to Wikipedia there are currently 330 DOC and 73 DOCG designations in Italy. 

Here's a great example of a recently created DOC from a classic Italian region: Prosecco DOC. Also check out our DOCG Page where you'll find the very best wines in Italy, including Barolo DOCG, Chianti Classico DOCG, Gavi DOCG, and Barbaresco DOCG. Mama Mia. 

DOC? DOCG? DO? What?: A Brief on Apellation Regulation

You may have been out for dinner, at your local wine store, or here on our site and seen the acronyms: "DOC", "DO", "AOC", "QbA", etc. on your wine labels. At the beginning of my wine adventure I was completely lost to the meaning of these funny little labels. I quickly learned they're not only easy to remember but they're a great way to find quality wine from some of the best wine regions in the world. 

Well, What The Heck Are They?

These acronyms tell you the wine is from a specific Apellation.... "A What?" ... Apellations are recognized wine growing regions throughout the world, where winemaking style, grape choice, and quality are regulated to ensure higher value and brand recognition for that region. That's the core idea of an apellation, maintaining quality standards to ensure that wines of a certain region have inherent value. 

 

You may be thinking... "WTF"... and that's perfectly normal

Apellations are often broken into tiers, either demarcated by region, local towns, microclimates, or even soil composition. An example of tiers would be Chianti DOC and Chianti Classico DOCG; Chianti is the greater region and recognized as a quality wine region but Chianti Classico is a smaller more established region within Chianti. With the optimum microclimates, soil types, and winemaking tradition Classico is considered more "valuable" or at least more "typical". Winemakers in Chianti Classico may choose to make Classico DOCG, Chianti DOC (which has less restriction in style), Chianti IGT (may use any grape varietal), or Vino da Tavola (the lowest quality wine designation)

The same tier situation is true of Bordeaux where the large regional Apellation is Bordeaux AOC, followed by District AOC's like Libourne or Graves AOC, followed by each district's unique chateaux tier system. In Graves for example there is a Cru system which stratifies wine producers into 5 tiers: Premier Cru (1st Tier) through Cinquiemes Crus (5th tier). While certainly an absurd and relatively arbitrary system, just remember, that Premiers or 1er Cru is going to be ridiculously expensive and that there are often great values further down the ranks. 

Apellations vary in every country, from the very lenient AVA apellations of the USA, to the elaborate Pradikat and QbA systems in Germany and Austria. 

 

Now That I've Confused You

The core takeaway point from this tirade is this: Apellations are a helpful guide but they are by no means a guaranteed measure of quality. Most apellations do try to ensure quality and consistency through blind tastings, harvest and grape regulations, and other quality standards, but the field of options will often remain very wide indeed. 

What you can rely on is this, apellations help regulate classic styles and help you make more informed decisions when choosing wines. You'll never go wrong by taking a few different bottles from the same region and comparing them. You may surprise your taste buds and find a world of minute variation you never expected. 

So, invite some friends, make a facebook event with a name like "Tonight We Taste Tuscany", and compare a few similar vintages. You'll have fun and learn a little along the way. 

 

For further info into this large and confusing world, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apellation. 

Producer Spotlight: Perrini

Vito and Mila Perrini with local kids

Vito and Mila Perrini Teaching Local Kids About Healthy Eating

Brother and sister duo Vito and Mila Perrini saved their failing family farm in the late 1990's. Generations of ancestors had toiled on the scorching hot lands that now surround their new state-of-the-art winemaking cantina in Castellaneta Marina, Apulia. While the region is chronically plagued by low average wages, low economic output, and some of the hottest weather in the country, the Perrinis are utterly excelling and they're bringing their community up with them. 

Vito has been awarded the Oscar Green Award, Italy's highest award for farmers, for innovative and responsible farming. His sister Mila is both a terrific artist and winemaker. Together they have won top awards across Europe and been noted as a top Salento and Primitivo producer by Robert Parker. Their farm is a laboratory for exploring what is possible in agriculture, from experimenting with flocks of grazing sheep as mobile fertilizers to extensive bee colonies for increased bud fertilization and healthy floral activity in the vineyard, the Perrini's are doing everything right. 

Vito Perrini with his Son

Vito Perrini With His Newborn Son, Stefano Maria Perrini

Alongside idyllic citrus trees, both trained and wild vines grow side by side while the southern sun beats down and ocean breeze cools the air. An optimal growing environment with some of the most foreward thinking agriculture in the business is matched by deft winemaking. Their entire wine focus is on native local grape varietals Primitivo (Zinfandel), Negroamaro, Fiano, Verdeca, all of which were used by Grecian settlers in pre-roman times. They have an intimate relationship with these aboriginal grape varietals that rings true through every gulp of their delicious vintages. 

Besides their exemplary farming and winemaking, the Perrinis have taken an active role in their community, inviting troupes of local school children to their farm to learn healthy eating, living, and to enjoy the outdoors. Their tasting room doubles as both a classroom and a trophy room for the mountains of recognition for their classic southern wines and unwaveringly responsible social and business practices. Their tireless efforts do not go unnoticed and while I was visiting them in June 2010 I witnessed the appreciation locals have for the Perrinis first hand. 

An Interview with Vito Perrini

This inspiring duo continue to make memorable impressions on wine lovers, food connoisseurs, and their local community alike. It is our pleasure to offer three of their wines in our portfolio as we believe they are a reflection of the beauty and magic of the Apulian province.

Find all three Perrini wines here.

Mila Bio Bianco - $12.00

Mila Bio Rosso - $12.00

Prymus - $22.00

Become a Sommelier and Impress Some People

Last night I took my Advanced Sommelier exam from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET). It was a nearly three hour exam that included two blind tastings, 50 multiple choice questions, and 5 long answer sections. It covered parts of every winemaking region and style in the world. Now, with over 700 flash cards and weeks of studying later I can't say I passed with any amount of confidence. What I can say is that the program is fantastic.

What is The Wine and Spirits Education Trust?

WSET was founded in 1969 in in London, England to provide high quality education and training in wines and spirits. They have certified thousands of professionals and enthusiasts in their five levels of accreditation. The levels offered include Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Diploma, and Honours Diploma. It's the path to the Master Sommelier program offered by The Court of Master Sommeliers, the ultimate level of wine accomplishment.

What is Covered?

The core of the program is the Systematic Approach to Tasting, a thorough tasting structure that assesses all wine and spirits on a level playing field in the categories of sight, scent, pallet, and quality/style assessment. 

The courses also cover everything from the basics of serving etiquette, wine and spirit styles, all the way up to vine training technique, spirit assessment, and obscure appellations from the far corners of the wine world. Paired with their tasting approach, the programs have opened up a new world of enjoyment and confidence for me. 

How Much Effort Does it Take?

If my 700+ flashcard set is any indication, the program takes a lot of focus beyond the intermediate level. With a bit of determination and good scheduling, however, anyone should be able to conquer even the highest levels with a mark to be proud of. The courses cover an ever expanding, near infinite amount of content, but it's structured in a way that promotes genuine understanding at a very base level. 

Even after weeks of intense studying I can't be sure I passed, but what I can be sure of is that I'm proud of my effort and incredibly happy with the program. I would encourage anyone to check out their site and see if there's a program offered nearby. If you love wine you will not regret it. 

Who Can I Ask About The Experience?

Both I and our Sales Manager Dawn have taken the courses. If you have any questions at all feel free to email us at info@theorganiccellar.com, or leave a comment below!

 

To review: Learning about wine + confidence in your skills = invitations to more parties and more wine in your life. 

The Barbecue Enthusiast's Best Friend

Barbecue Season is Here: Stock Accordingly

In my lengthy experience as a backyard barbecue enthusiast I have always struggled to find the perfect match for the glorious charcoal infused fruits of my labor. Beer is always a solid choice but I want more from my meal and I want it delicious and I want it priced right. Well, this fun-time-grilling-guy has found his cookout darling. 

3 Liters of Monastrell Magic

 

Not only fully certified Organic, this wine comes packed in a BPA free, recyclable bag-in-box that carries FOUR bottles worth of wine. Even the spigot is 100% BPA free and allows for safe storage for up to 6 weeks. The wine is dark cherry colored with aromas of ripe fruit approachable tannins and a clean acidity that's at home with the juiciest pork and freshest summer salads. This wine will match your summer grill menu like my spicy dry rub matches a slow roasted 10 lb pork butt (Image below)

Is it love? Intruso's Murcia Monastrell has a crush on BBQ. 

Roll out the grill, head down to your local butcher, and order some boxes of Intruso Monastrell from Picos De Garay. It's $30 and it will make you happy. I am now accepting invitations to summer BBQ parties. 

French study finds Pesticides/Fungicides in 90% of French Wines Tested

Pesticides/Herbicides/Fungicides... The traditional knowledge popularized since WWII has been that you can't live without 'em. Used in all areas of agricultural production, treatment with strong and largely experimental chemicals has been status quo. Nowadays we're beginning to realize you can't live [a full, healthy, or responsible life] with 'em. 

Image Courtesy: Ethicalwine.com

A recent study by the EXCELL Laboratory in Bordeaux has found pesticides or fungicides in 90% of 2009 and 2010 wines tested. Ranging from a single type of chemical compound to up to nine unique chemicals, there is damning evidence of mismanagement in the vineyard. 

"Vineyards represent just 3% of agricultural land in France, but the wine industry accounts for 20% of phytosanitary product volumes, and 80% of fungicide use specifically.  www.Decanter.com"

While there is still limited evidence of direct health complications from pesticide and fungicide exposure through food, there are clear and direct correlations between farmworkers, pesticides, and health effects. In addition, while the EU has set limits of 250mg/l of chemical allowed on grapes, there are NO LIMITS set for their use IN WINES. I highly recommend reading this breifing by Pesticide Action Network Europe which explores the wide use of chemicals in wine making and the relative lack of regulation vs consumables like water and vegetables. Some wines they tested contained over 2000x the legal limit of pesticides allowed in water!

What can you do to both avoid pesticides and promote healthier agriculture? Vote with your wallet and buy certified Organic, Natural, and Biodynamic Wines. 

  

Link to the Decanter Article Here

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