The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Drones for Wine Growers? Why Not?

Posted on | July 23, 2014 | Written by Jessica Catelli | No Comments

photo-mainI came across a very interesting article called “Kickstarter Project StitchCAM Uses Drone Technology to Help Farmers Produce More Crops with Less Resources” in Wine Business and thought I should share it for two reasons. For one, I’m always interested in reading about new technology, let alone technology that will help us become more eco-friendly, and two, I think Kickstarter is an awesome worldwide crowd-funding platform. Kickstarter links creators of a project or product with backers who want to see that product or project happen. Creators set a funding goal and deadline, and if people like a project, they can pledge money to bring these creative projects to life, receiving various rewards for different levels of funding. Funding on Kickstarter is an all or nothing system—the projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money.

This recent article discussed how a small device known as a StitchCAM would aid farmers to gather information in a more efficient way to help better their crops. Creator Bill Robertson claims that this system is easy to use, and durable enough to work in any field. “I believe feeding the world in 2050 is attainable if technology is approachable and affordable enough for all farmers. It’s time to put drones to work in applications that will make a difference to industry and to society,” the article quotes Robertson.

To briefly explain this device, the StitchCAM collects visual data; the farmer r enters the dimensions of the field, and after the flight the device provides results of the surveyed area for analysis. Along with digital results on the screen. images and a video of the flight is also available online! It costs $2,800 each; however, Robertson claims these devices will essentially pay for themselves after about 350 acres of flight.

It’s hard to read this piece and not think about its use for wine growers. I’ve read many other recent articles and talked to wine producers who using different devices to do this job, but no technology thus far has been this precise for the price. The question is will traditional farmers leave their traditional ways of analyzing their fields and put their trust into this small device? It seems very beneficial. What farmers wouldn’t want to maximize their resources and increase their profit?

I’m hoping Bill Robertson and his SNAP Vision Technologies team can reach their finical goal on Kickstarter because they have some great ideas to helping solve larger global issues, like maximizing crop output in order to help abate world food shortages. Bill Robertson has 15 days to go, but with only $7,925 yet raised on his Kickstarter project, I’m not sure he will be meeting his $100k goal. Stay tuned!

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Expert Picks: La Rioja Alta and…La Rioja Alta!

Posted on | July 23, 2014 | Written by David Gwo | No Comments

DAvid gwo blog bio photoWhen people ask me where they should be looking for age-worthy and collectible wines that haven’t entered Bordeaux and Burgundy pricing territory, my immediate answer is always Spain. I’m a huge fan of Spanish wines, especially those coming from the world-renowned Rioja region. The quality of Rioja from top estates is comparable to any of the wines produced in Bordeaux, Tuscany, or any other major wine producing region crafting bottles for collectors and enthusiasts alike.

Rioja’s star grape is Tempranillo, and the region utilizes a classification system for its wines based on specific aging requirements. Wines designated Crianza must be aged a minimum six months in barrel and eighteen months in bottle from the vintage date, Reservas must be aged a minimum year in barrel and two in bottle from the vintage date, while Gran Reservas must see a minimum two years in barrel and three in bottle from the vintage date and are made only in exceptional vintages. Think of it this way: Spain has done a favor for those of us who don’t have the patience to wait a half decade or more to drink their wines by giving us a head start on the aging process.

La Rioja Alta is one of the top producers in Rioja and their two flagship Gran Reserva bottlings commemorate milestones in the estate’s history. The estate was formed in 1890 leading to the Gran Reserva ’890,’ and in 1904, it acquired Bodegas Ardanza, which dramatically increased the vineyard holdings, so La Rioja Alta created the Gran Reserva ‘904’ to commemorate this expansion.

Drink now:

La Rioja Alta 1995 Rioja Gran Reserva ’890′ $165.00

Every bottle of ‘890’ that has been, is being, and ever will be made is something special. This is a wine that La Rioja Alta makes just a handful of times a decade, and the 1995 is absolutely incredible. The wine comes across as incredibly youthful, with a vibrant dark ruby core and just the slightest bit of lightening around the rim. On the nose, you get dark floral aromatics, black cherry fruits, herbs, vanilla, toasty oak and the list goes on. The palate reveals a medium-to-full-bodied wine with well-integrated tannins, juicy acidity, and a stunning mélange of flavors. This is a blockbuster wine.

Cellar:

La Rioja Alta 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva ’904′ $59.99

The 2001 ‘904’ has plenty of life ahead, but it’s already delicious now. One of the things you notice right after the first sip is the wine’s acidity, which is relatively high, indicating that the wine will benefit from some additional bottle age. Classic Rioja aromas and flavors leap out of the glass, indicating that this wine is going to get better and better. There are very few wines that I can think of that deliver this kind of bang for your buck. Stunning quality and longevity.

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Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium 2012

Posted on | July 22, 2014 | Written by David Bertot | No Comments

283363Monastero Suore Cistercensi Coenobium 2012 is an excellent selection for any summer meal. This unusual and compelling wine made by the nuns of the Cistercian order in Vitorchiano, about 90 miles north of Rome in Lazio, is a bottle that totally over-delivers. Eighty Cistercian sisters work the vineyards and orchards organically in this beautiful, pristine, and quiet religious outpost. Overseen by Giampiero Bea, the son of Umbria’s eminent artisanal producer Paolo Bea, Monastero Suore crafts two wines, both whites made with extended contact with the skins of the grapes. Both Giampiero and Paolo are well known proponents of the Italian school of non-interventionalist winemaking, and this wine is evidence of that influence.

Slightly cloudy and golden straw in color with a tiny little light-orange tint in the glass, the wine gracefully demonstrates a vivacious acidity, with subtle notes of clean peach and fresh apricot on the mid-palate.  Best of all, the wine has a gorgeous mineral streak on the finish, which works really well with summer antipasti served as a first course. However, the Coenobium also pairs really well with lighter pastas containing seafood—it would be divine with ravioli such as lobster or butternut squash.

The ’12 Coenubium has a strong yet subtle backbone, a quality that is a component of a meticulously made organic white wine; this precision comes from the fact the skins have longer than usual contact with the fermenting juice. The first time I had this wine it left me perplexed as I tasted it blind—I had no idea what I was drinking, but I knew I liked it. A blend of 45% Trebbiano, 35% Malvasia, and 20% Verdicchio, this wine is balanced, precise, and surprising. Only 1,000 cases of this wine were made in 2012, and it delivers a massive value at under $27.

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Expert Picks: Serafini & Vidotto and Cupano

Posted on | July 22, 2014 | Written by Robin Kelley OConnor | No Comments

unnamed-1I have two great picks for today, a Prosecco and a Brunello, which together take you from aperitivi to main course. As the heat and humidity return, there is nothing more refreshing then a delicious Serafini & Vidotto Bollicine Di Prosecco NV. Serafini & Vidotto Bollicine Di Prosecco is located in the Province of Veneto in the Montello and Colli Asolani DOC district northwest of the beautiful city of Treviso, just over an hour from Venice. I love this area of Italy where great scenery matches perfectly with history. The vineyards are surrounded by Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, and Asolo, the three historic townships of Prosecco. The Serafini & Vidotto makes its Bollicine Di Prosecco is 100% from the Glera grape, which used to be known as Prosecco.

For the end of the day, the perfect wine for a twilight dinner of local farm-picked ripe tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella is Cupano Brunello di Montalcino 2008. The Brunello di Montalcino of Cupano have quickly become an IWM favorite. We have been blessed to clear the Cupano cellars of nearly ten vintages of their Brunello. Lionello Cousin, who founded Cupano in the late ‘80s with Ornella Tondini, is French, and he has brought his native sensibilities of winemaking to Montalcino to harmonize with his wife’s Italian passion and roots. They use non-interventionist methods both in the vineyard and in the cellar. Today I have selected the outstanding 2008 vintage.

Serafini & Vidotto Bollicine Di Prosecco NV $17.99

Serafini & Vidotto partners Francesco Serafini and Antonello Vidotto have the perfect dynamic: Francesco is an oenologist and dedicates himself to all elements in the cellar and Antonello is an expert in viticulture and an expert cultivator. This Prosecco has a bright straw color with a hint of yellow and very fine persistent bubbles. Offering aromas of apples, pears and melons with a fresh floral acacia note on the nose, its palate t is fresh, fruity, soft and pleasant with a round flavorful finish.

Cupano Brunello di Montalcino 2008 $109

This beautifully crafted ’08 Brunello is going to be a wine for the ages. Lionel Cousin is intensely engrossed in every aspect of his vineyard management. He uses only the ripest, best, low yield organically grown Sangiovese Grosso grapes for the Cupano Brunello. The wine spends 50 months in oak barrels and bottle before release. Deep bright ruby in color, this powerful, intense wine has a nose that’s loaded with exotic spices, fruit flavors. Offering an underlying velvety texture with great nuance, pitch perfect balance and a long finish that continues on for minutes, this is a wine you can drink now or put down for years.

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Looking to Montepulciano, the Region and the DOCG

Posted on | July 21, 2014 | Written by IWM Staff | No Comments

Picture of Montepulciano taken from Il Conventino's website

Picture of Montepulciano taken from Il Conventino’s website

Today’s eLetter presents a really lovely rosato from Il Conventino, an organic producer in Montepulciano in Toscana. We’ve written previously on Montepulicano, the grape, and thought that this winsome $20 Sangiovese rosé was as good a reason as any to discuss Montepulicano, the region, and in specific, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG.

As is the case with many wine regions, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano enjoyed great renown in past centuries only to suffer the pangs of mediocrity in modern times. Of course, with a name like Vino Nobile, if the wine didn’t have a long and illustrious history of being sung paeans by poets, praised by popes, and embraced by kings, it would just be a misnomer. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has the historical reputation to back up the name; what it lacks, sadly, is much of a presence in the present.

Geographically, Montepulciano sits smack between its two more famous viticultural relatives, Chianti and Brunello de Montalcino. A diminutive 2,500 acres, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is much smaller both in stature and in status than its two neighbors; its soil tends to the sandier and more alluvial, and while the vineyards stand at an elevation of about 250-600 feet; and the land is much more uniform and less rolling than much of either Chianti or Montalcino. And all three areas utilize Sangiovese clones for their wines, though it’s called the Prugnolo in Montepulciano (and Brunello in Montalcino). What this set of geographical and enological comparisons suggests is that Vino Nobile di Montepulciano resembles both Chianti and Brunello–but it also does not.

The Prugnolo Gentile strain of Sangiovese presents difficulties because of its tendency toward high acidity and substantive, even austere, tannins. Beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, producers have been mindfully trying to tame the Prugnolo to make a more accessible, fruit-forward wine through tinkering with clones and vinification techniques. In an ideal world, Vino de Montepulciano has the structure and balance of Brunello combined with the jaunty acidity of Chianti; in the best of all possible worlds, the wine is tinged with violets, but redolent of fruit, and Vino de Montepulciano embodies the best of both Brunello and Chianti. It just doesn’t always work out that way, and not merely because there doesn’t seem to be the kind of understanding on the part of producers of precisely what a Vino de Montepulciano should be, but also because the DOCG regulations reinforce that ambiguity.

Vino de Montepulciano received DOC status in 1966 and DOCG in 1980 (it was one of the first four DOCG wines). Sadly, DOCG regulations prescribe the producers’ ambivalence over the identity of Vino de Montepulciano as much as reflect it, for there is wide latitude in the DOCG rules for the wine. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano has traditionally been produced with Prugnolo Gentile (at least 70%), Canaiolo Nero (at most 20%) and other permitted varietals, such as Trebbiano Toscana (20% maximum), as well as limited quantities of Pulcinculo (Grechetto Bianco) and Mammolo (5% maximum). However in 1999, permitted allowances of Prugnolo Gentile were increased to 100%, while still allowing for other grapes if desired. Additional provisions were outlined that lessened the ageing requirements in cask. Producers now have several options which allow for a combination of cask and container and/or bottle treatment: (I) 24 months in wood; (2) eighteen months minimum in wood, remainder in other container; (3) twelve months minimum in wood plus six months in bottle, remainder in another container. That’s a lot of flexibility.

What this means to wine-lovers is that the producer of the bottle of wine says a lot about what’s inside, and that you probably haven’t tried Vino de Montepulciano until you’ve tried them all. On the other hand, it can be a lot of fun trying.

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