What’s Behind a Glass of Organic Wine?

Ecological wines have gotten a bad rap for a long time. They’re part of what’s seen as a hippie movement, sometimes including a move to screw-top bottles (the horror!) and boxed wine. It’s no surprise that the wine world is in a tizzy over ecological wines as the next frontier in winemaking. The world of food is experiencing a similar upheaval; a recent return to “natural” processes away from highly processed food products has forced manufacturers to reconsider everything from their product offerings to advertising schemes.

The contradiction that we face as a society is apparent from the get-go. Dave McIntyre, of The Washington Post recently pointed out that we are delighted to purchase a tomato from the back of a pick-up truck at a farmer’s market but reluctant to look at organic wines for sale just one truck over. The image of Lucille Ball stomping on grapes in that memorable episode of “I Love Lucy” seems to dominate the public perception of how eco wines are made in someone’s backyard where too many pairs of less-than-clean feet stomp the grapes into wine.

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But in actuality we find that these eco wines do beautifully in blind tests with wine critics. While the processes covered by the “organic” wine certification are still in flux in the U.S., the reviewers used generally more positive words to describe the wines and the author noted that he himself found many of the eco wines more lively in taste.  Classifying a wine as organic is an expensive process as well, he points out, and that means that some of their products can get lost in the mix.

A winery like Barone Pizzini in Franciacorta takes specific measures to ensure that its wines are certified as organic and as the winery has grown, so has its influence on the wine industry. While some may still confuse eco labels with hippie tastes, the sophistication and liveliness of a sip of Barone Pizzini’s star products is enough to make everyone reconsider their previous assumptions. Grown on  47 hectares of carefully cultivated land, each of Barone Pizzini’s wines feature their own unique blend of traits and characteristics.

Save the Date & Join the Franciacorta Festival: September 17-18

Every year in September, the Franciacorta Festival brings a dynamic weekend of must-do activities to locals and visitors alike.

Cantina Barone Pizzini

This year’s festival will come the weekend of September 17th and 18th. Guests may choose to spend the weekend relaxing, sipping wonderful local sparkling wines and enjoying the local scenery and hospitality!

Barone Pizzini joins the Franciacorta Festival and celebrates biodiversity with a special tour of the winery and vineyards. The guided visit includes:

  • Walk in the vineyard with an expert of wild herbs
  • Guided tour of the cellar
  • Tasting of three Franciacorta paired with a degustation menu made with wild herbs

The cost of the special tour is 29 and reservation is required.

Nearby wineries offer tours and comprehensive tastings of their offerings. For those who wish to stay in town, the streets will be full of tasty street food options and famous chefs will be preparing dinners to celebrate the festival. Art and musical performances will be front and center and children are included as well with hiking and cycling options.

The location in Franciacorta is perfect for a quick weekend trip from Milan, Florence or even further cities like Rome, and the local vineyards are ideal spots when considering both quick overnight trips and longer says. Franciacorta is not only a place for a weekend getaway but even planning family events like a wedding or family reunion in the area- a beautiful natural backdrop to a memorable visit for everyone.

Who knows- the beautiful scenery, the extraordinary sites to visit and of course, the delicious wines, an annual trip to Franciacorta for the Festival might become a tradition for your family and friends!

Seeking the Tuscan Sun? Meet Poderi di Ghiaccioforte, Barone Pizzini’s Youngest Tuscan Brother

Tuscany is synonymous with all things Italian for many English-speakers and travelers. The colors are iconic: rich wheat-brown fields, brilliant blue skies, the pristine rows of cypress trees that seem to stretch as far as the eye can see. These are all symbols of one of the crown jewels of Italian regions.

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The Maremma region is bordered by the southwestern Tuscan cities of Livorno and Grosseto and to the south, Viterbo and Rome. The Poderi di Ghiaccioforte vineyard lies in this Maremma in Scansano, a nearby Etruscan site. The Sangiovese grape is grown on two distinct plots with different soils that come together for a unique-tasting wine: Pian del Dado which faces east and features a medium-textured soil and Colonna-Aquilaia which faces north with a clayey-calcareous soil.

At this moment in time, the vineyard features three special wines for your consideration. The first is Rosso dei Poderi Maremma Toscana Rosso IGT. Perfect for an aperitivo with friends (imagine a platter of meats and moderately-aged cheeses), this soft and finely textured wine is a perfect companion.

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The Morellino di Scansano DOCG is a full-bodied wine, named for the black breed of horses that pulled carriages so long ago. This is a star wine that highlights all the reasons why Sangiovese grapes are so sought-after in Italian wines.

The Estatatura Toscana Rosso IGT was named for the vast relocation of city-dwellers to Grosseto during the summer months. Indeed, its flavors are the essence of summer- ruby red with hints of violets, the fragrance of blackberries, wild cherries, raspberries and herbs and a broad and mellow taste in the mouth. This is the Riserva wine from Poderi di Ghiaccioforte’s selection and one that is sure to delight all who get a sip.

 

What do you like about Morellino di Scansano?

What are the differences between Prosecco and Franciacorta?

Absolutely everyone loves bubbly. It’s the ultimate celebration wine that perfectly matches all foods, from bruschetta to tiramisù and even popcorn. It makes for an elegant hostess present at a dinner and even for those nights when you just feel like unwinding before settling down to eat. The world of Italian sparkling wines can be difficult to navigate with hundreds of different labels available, so where does one begin? Which labels are the best? What are the important differences between Italian sparkling wine styles?

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Two names that get tossed around a lot when speaking about Italian bubbly are Prosecco and Franciacorta. Indeed, many people actually confuse Prosecco and Franciacorta. It’s understandable, as both have distinctly Italian names. However, this recent article by VinePair demonstrates a few key differences between them, such as the grapes themselves, the production methods and when the wines should be consumed.

Barone Pizzini and all quality Franciacorta wines are made in the Franciacorta method, also known as the traditional method or metodo classico. This is the time-intensive method by which the greatest sparkling wines in the world are made. Prosecco is made in the less expensive Charmat method.

Barone Pizzini is one the pioneering wineries that produces Franciacorta in Italy. To find an authentic Franciacorta, all you need to do is look for the Barone Pizzini label as a helpful starting point.

Two other important considerations: Prosecco should be consumed immediately, while Franciacorta needs time to reach its peak flavor, from a few months to two years. Furthermore, Prosecco is produced in different provinces of the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia regions, while Franciacorta is produced only in the province of Brescia, near Milan in the Lombardy region.

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So have no fear the next time you find yourself perusing the aisles of your favorite wine store for something to gift your host or even just a new addition to your own wine collection. The store’s selection might seem daunting, but armed with this useful information about Prosecco and Franciacorta wines, you’ll know how to zero in on the perfect bottle of Italian bubbly!

Wine Additives? No, Thanks! Discover Pievalta Winery’s Biodynamic Viticulture

Many winemakers use chemical additives to create a more complex structure to their wines. When done correctly, the results can be excellent. But there is another way. The Pievalta winery uses biodynamic viticulture that its founder, Alessandro Fenino, adopted from his experiences as an organic farmer.

Working exclusively with natural preparations including organic and vegetal compounds, Fenino says that he is able to encourage the growth of a fertile humus that will help revitalize plant growth. He does this by changing the way that he treats the soil, tilling between every other row and then ploughing it at the end of the harvest season. The rows are then planted with legumes that are worked back into the earth in the spring as a cover crop. Using “horn manure”, the humus is formed, which gives fertility to the soil using microorganisms. The vineyards are also sprayed with horn silica, and only copper and sulfur are used to protect vines from disease.

The result of Pievalta’s efforts is a certification by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture that the wines are free of pesticides, fungicides and insecticides. There are many ways to grow wine, and this return to the earth and soil is a special way to celebrate the particular flavors of the Verdicchio grapes.

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Credits: Wine Folly

Minerality in Wines: What Does it Mean?

Lettie Teague’s wonderful piece in the Wall Street Journal on minerality in wines is a must-read.

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Credits: Wendy Macnaughton – “Minerality”: Drilling Down on Wine’s Buzzword

A new go-to word in the world of wine, “minerality” in wine for Teague is a wine that has flavors of slate or wet stone, even a slight bitterness. Sometimes minerality refers to the soil of the terroir, others say it is not a scientific term but an artistic term.

Teague gathers several “minerally” wines together and finds that she can describe them as fresh, lively with lots of acidity and “even possessed of an energetic buzz.”  

Indeed, the wines from the Pievalta winery capture just these same qualities in their bottles. As founder Alessandro Fenino says, “we don’t transform grapes into wine. We simply accompany the fruit as it becomes wine. We let the grapes express themselves freely.”

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Tasters new to Pievalta’s wines will find that their best selections follow Teague’s advice to the letter- fresh, with hints of citrus, herbs and the almost chalky taste from the limestone-rich soil where the Verdicchio vines are grown.

Lake Iseo Floating Piers

The projects of world-renowned visionaries Christo and Jeanne-Claude have always attracted visitors from far and wide. The Floating Piers at Lake Iseo, connecting two islands normally only reachable by boat, was no exception. The temporary, public art installation was constructed with 70,000 square meters of yellow fabric, carried by a modular floating dock system of 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes. Some 65,000 people per day made the journey to Lake Iseo for the installation, which closed on July 3, but there are countless reasons to stay on at Lake Iseo.

An ideal day trip from Milan 60 miles away, Lake Iseo is equally easy to reach from Brescia and Bergamo. The Barone Pizzini winery offers a range of opportunities for wine-lovers visiting the region to indulge in a day (or two!) of pleasures. Enjoy a guided tour of the breathtaking landscape with an expert wine guide and relax over tastings of some of the winery’s choice selections grown in the distinctive terroir of Franciacorta. The tastings are accompanied by organic Grana Padano cheese and locally cured meats- only the best to bring out the unique and delicious taste of our wines.

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Barone Pizzini Winery

Click here to contact us about organizing your visit! We look forward to seeing you!

A Toast to the Bounty of Summer

This time of year, we’re especially inspired in the kitchen; our local markets are bursting with the season’s freshest fruits and vegetables, and it seems that nothing more than a light touch is needed to turn such exquisite raw materials into a healthy local feast.

This is the same philosophy that guides the winemaking principles of Barone Pizzini; an appreciation for the bounty of the land and a respect for the raw ingredients that has inspired the company to lead the way in organic production of Franciacorta, as well as biodynamic production of Pievalta in Le Marche.

Not surprising, then, that many of the restaurants around the country that include Barone Pizzini in their wine programs also espouse this dedication to local sourcing and appreciation for highlighting the flavors of each changing season. Great news for those of us who are committed to sustainable dining, but less inspired in the kitchen!

ABC Kitchen, New York City

The New York restaurant scene has embraced the “local” food trend in a big way – but ABC Kitchen takes this commitment to a new level. In addition to Chef Jean-Georges’ focus on organic seasonal produce, meat, fish and dairy are sourced locally and sustainably whenever possible; herbs and microgreens are grown on a rooftop garden; and beverages – from wine to coffee and tea – are organic and fair-trade. Even the dining room includes recycled or reclaimed materials – we’ll toast to that!

Coppa, Boston

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Seasonal fare at Coppa, Boston

Not traditionally viewed as a foodie haven, Boston is making a name for itself as a culinary destination in its own right, thanks in part to a rising generation of outstanding chefs, including Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa in Boston’s South End. Pair your Franciacorta with a seasonally updated menu of pizza, pasta, outstanding charcuterie and fresh produce sourced from “local friends.”

Market 17, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Proving that the country’s biggest cities do not have a monopoly on locavore dining, Chef Lauren Shields at Market 17 has made Fort Lauderdale a regional leader in sustainable dining. The native Floridian is convinced that consumer education is the key to encouraging more people to make responsible food choices. Owners Kirsta and Aaron Grauberger – a brother and sister team of sommeliers – are pleased to share their dedication to sourcing in an extensive beverage program, with plenty of biodynamic and organic options, including Barone Pizzini Rosé.  

Your Favorite Bubbly, Deconstructed

Ever wonder what makes Franciacorta stand out from other sparkling wines? Or why there seems to be so much variation between different types of bubbly – from carbonation level to flavor profile to price?

Sparkling wine might be the most technical of all wine styles, so the folks at Wine Folly have created this helpful guide to sparkling wine. As they tell it, there are no fewer than six methods of sparkling wine production, each resulting in a different style of bubbly. Check out their list, and wow your friends with your expert sparkling wine knowledge:

  • Traditional Method
  • Tank Method
  • Transfer Method
  • Ancestral Method
  • Continuous Method
  • Carbonation

Of those six methods, the most widely used are the Traditional Method, called Metodo Classico in Italian, and the Tank Method, also called Metodo Italiano or the Charmat Method.

The Tank Method is the method typically used to make three of the most common Italian sparkling wines – Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti, and Lambrusco. In this process, sugar and yeast are added to base wines in a large tank. The wine undergoes a secondary fermentation as the added yeasts turn the sugars into CO2; the wine is then filtered, any desired dosage (the winemaker’s own mixture of wine and sugar) is added, and finally the wine is bottled. This method tends to produce wines with coarse bubbles, fruity and floral notes, and sometimes strong yeast flavors. It is an easier process to complete than the Metodo Classico, and thus produces wines at a lower price point.

In contrast, Metodo Classico, which is the process used to make Franciacorta, carries higher production costs. The fundamental difference is that the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottles rather than in tanks, and is considered the source of the highest quality sparkling wines.

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As sommelier and wine writer Cindy Swain wrote recently in WineTourist Magazine, this process has a palpable impact on the sensory experience of Franciacorta: “Two other main differences between the two styles are the bubbles and the aromas. The Charmat Method produces sparkling wines with larger, coarser bubbles and primary aromas that are fruity and floral. A Classic Method wine yields a fine perlage, or tiny strings of bubbles, and the long aging process creates complexities in the wine that go beyond primary aromas to tertiary aromas of butter, nuts and brioche.”

To receive the distinction of the DOCG appellation, Franciacorta has to adhere to additional production standards. Swain writes, “Unlike many other Italian sparkling wines, the Franciacorta DOCG—the highest level of Italian wine classification—requires that all grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a limited amount of Pinot Blanc) are hand-harvested and aged on the lees and in the bottle for a minimum of 18 months for non-vintage wines, 24 months for rosé and satèn, 30 months for the vintage “millesimato” and 60 months for the wines marked riserva. Because of the limited production numbers and rigorous production methods, the price point of Franciacorta is relatively high…”

This underscores the importance of understanding what distinguishes Franciacorta from other styles of sparkling wine! Barone Pizzini is further distinguished by being the first Franciacorta to switch to organic production, putting it at the top of an already elite category of sparkling wine makers.

 

Soil: Wine’s X Factor

When we think about all the factors that shape our experience of wine – climate conditions, sun exposure, irrigation, yeast selection, vine treatments, natural and chemical additives – it is easy to conjure up an image of vineyards, barrels of wine fermenting in a cellar, a winemaker testing for quality and deciding when to bottle the latest vintage.

What is harder to imagine is another factor, literally millions of years in the making, determined long before wine – or even humans – existed on the earth: soil.

How much impact does soil really have on a wine, and how can we understand that impact?

Luiz Alberto, writer behind The Wine Hub blog and founder of the #winelover virtual community, explains it this way: “Arguably, the 2 most important factors of a soil, for the purpose of growing grapes and making wine, are its structure and texture. These two components will cause a vine to grow and produce grapes differently. In principle, the percentages of clay, sand, silt, loam, and rock present in the soil will determine the grape varieties that would be well suited to produce grapes of the best quality for that specific site.”

According to Alberto, the composition of the soil determines which wines are best suited to a specific sites, which is why certain regions and even certain plots of land come to be closely associated with a specific grape variety.

Soil may be one of the reasons why Le Marche is the ideal home of the Verdicchio grape – and one of the factors that makes Pievalta’s San Paolo Castelli di Jesi Verdicchio Riserva DOCG so exquisite.

The San Paolo vineyard is located on Monte Follonica in the town of Cupramontana, in the province of Ancona, indicated in light blue on this map:

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The soils there are rather loose, characterized by sandstone that dates back to the Pliocene era – 2.5-5.3 million years ago. In antiquity, the area was covered by the Adriatic sea, and the currents of sand that formed these soils came mostly from the Alpine range.

According to the “Strada del Gusto” website of the comune of Cupramontana, the grapes of this zone maintain a bright freshness and intriguing salinity. This helps explain the principal characteristics of Riserva San Paolo; these soils yield extremely complex wines, with a long finish and deep notes of ripe fruit and honey.

While there are some who dispute the importance of soil in shaping the profile of a wine, others, like Alberto, agree that the uniqueness of each plot of soil is that certain X factor that makes great wines truly one-of-a-kind:

“Even if some specialists will argue that the influence of the soil is not as dramatic in wine quality as those presented by the climatic conditions of a region … to a certain extent soil can influence wine quality with its own positive or negative characteristics and the viticultural practices used to optimize the positive ones, and reduce or even eliminate the negative traits,” Alberto writes.

In the case of Pievalta, nature and culture combine in a remarkable way: methodical biodynamic winemaking principles put into practice on a territory characterized by ancient, high quality soils perfectly suited to Le Marche’s native grapes.