Scenes from Lake Como: the Coldiretti International Agriculture Forum

carlo petrini villa este coldirettiYou may remember that Cantele grape grower and winemaker Gianni Cantele was elected as the president of Coldiretti Puglia back in January of last year (Coldiretti is the Italian confederation of food growers).

This weekend he’s attending the group’s International Forum on Agriculture in Cernobbio on Lake Como as the Puglia delegate.

That’s Carlo Petrini (above), founder of the International Slow Food movement, addressing the assembly.

villa d este como italyThat’s the Villa d’Este on the lake, where the conference is being held.

lake como house rentals“It’s a splendid day,” writes Gianni on his Facebook on October 17, 2014. “This is global warming weather!”

Cantele by the sea ocean at the fabu Casa Ado in Los Angeles

best italian seafood los angelsWhen it comes to true, authentic Italian cuisine in Los Angeles, Chef Antonio Murè, co-owner of Casa Ado in Venice, California is the real deal.

A funny thing happens when Italians come to Los Angeles.

Guarda che bello il mare californiano! you might hear them say. Look how beautiful the California sea is!

Occasionally, the exclamation is greeted by an Italian language geek who will point out that it’s an ocean, not a sea.

Technicalities aside, seaside oceanside dining is always a treat when visiting the Golden State and there is no better place to enjoy the ocean breeze than Casa Ado in Venice, California where Chef Antonio Murè serves some of the best and most authentic Italian cuisine in the U.S. today (see above).

Between its phenomenal produce and the bounty of fresh fish (from the ocean), California gives Chef Antonio the raw materials he needs to make true Italian food.

It’s simply one of the best Italian restaurants in the U.S. right now and we’re proud that his wine list includes Cantele wines.

Casa Ado
12 W Washington Blvd
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
(310) 577-2589
Google map

Image via the Casa Ado website.

Scenes from iSensi, Cantele’s tasting room, by Kathy Ayer, a favorite food and wine blogger

best wine tasting class pugliaWe couldn’t resist sharing these photos by one of our favorite Italian food and wine bloggers, Kathy Ayer, author of Food Lover’s Odyssey and one of the leading “food sherpas” working in Europe today.

Kathy took part in a tasting and cooking class today at the Cantele tasting room, iSensi, at the winery in Guagnano (Lecce province).

best verdeca puglia wineWe’re devoted followers of Kathy’s and so we saw the photos in our feed.

Based in Provence, Kathy leads food- and wine-themed trips across Europe. And as she writes on her blog, when she’s not working, she’s busy “eating her way through France and Italy.”

best salumi pugliaCeleste, above, was Kathy’s group’s sommelier today at the tasting.

You can learn more about Kathy and what she does on her blog, Food Lover’s Odyssey, where she’s been active chronicling her travels for many years now.

recipe southern italian bracioleBut more than anything, we just enjoy following her on social media because she’s always sharing wonderful and, often times, out-of-the-way spots for great food and wine experiences in Europe.

In other words, we wish we were her! :)

Find and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Kathy, we’re so glad you made it to iSensi!

On oak aging, a note by winemaker Gianni Cantele

The following is a note from Cantele winemaker Gianni Cantele. Originally posted last year, we wanted to share it again here as we follow Gianni and his vinification of the 2014 vintage.

puglia barriqueAbove: The cask aging cellar at Cantele (photo by Wine Friend, who also posts about a tasting at the winery).

We currently have about 700 barriques, small oak casks used for aging wine. Almost all of them come from French coopers and are made with French wood. 10% of our barriques are made from American wood and are used solely for the aging of our Primitivo.

A French barrique costs Euro 700. Why am I telling you this? So that you can get a sense of the budget required for a winery that has roughly 700 barriques in its cellar. This is one of the reasons that wines aged in wood casks cost more.

Many people believe, erroneously, that wood casks are used to give a certain flavor to the wine. The truth is that the wine is conceived in the vineyard and that’s the wine that we put into the barriques. When we’re making an important wine, with a lot of structure, the wine has the muscle needed for cask aging.

Generally, we start with a wine that doesn’t already have the balance needed for the presence of tannins and other polyphenols. The barrique is the tool that we use to achieve that balance. Thanks to the natural micro-oxygenation that wood permits, chemical-physical changes occur in the wine that transforms an imbalanced wine into a balanced wine with structure.

Cask aging also helps to stabilize the color of the wine itself and to increase its longevity. On its own, the anthocyanin molecule would wane. I need to make that molecule bind itself to the tannin. And for this reason, I need an oxygen molecule that will permit it to bind itself to the tannin. This is why micro-oxygenation in oak casks is so important.

It’s wrong to think that wood casks are used to give different types of flavor to wine. It’s also true that when the wood is toasted, it can have an “aromatic impact.” The important thing is to make sure that the impact isn’t excessive and that it respects the grape variety’s characteristics without overshadowing them.

We use our barriques for five years and then they are retired (we sell them for Euro 60 each to restaurants, wine shops, and wine bars that use them for decoration).

Our barriques are crafted by top coopers and as soon as we empty them, we wash them with hot water and refill them immediately with wine.

Here’s the aging regimen for our most important wines (Teresa Manara Negroamaro, Amativo):

1/3 new barriques
1/3 one-year-old barriques
1/3 two-year-old barriques

For all the other red wines, we use barriques in their third, fourth, and fifth years.

The only white wine for which we use wood casks is our Teresa Manara Chardonnay. The wine is racked into barrique while still fermenting (as for all of our white wines, fermentation is initiated in stainless steel so that we can maintain a constant temperature of 15° C.). Once the fermentation in barrique is completed, the wine ages on its lees in barrique and we perform bâtonnage (a stirring of the lees) on a daily basis for two months. Then the lees are stirred once or twice a week for the remaining months before bottling.

Joel Mack, a favorite U.S. wine writer, recommends Cantele Salice Salentino

joel mack wine writerHere’s what Joel Mack, one of our favorite U.S. wine writers, had to say about the Cantele Salice Salentino, one of his recommendations for Bayou City magazine in Houston.

“Cantele Salice Salentino Riserva. This Negromaro, a hearty red from far southwestern Italy, provides ‘Old-world character with the ripeness and polish that appeals to New World wine lovers.'”

Thank you, Joel!

Click here for the complete review.

Image via Joel Mack’s Facebook.

Roses for the winemaker’s wife (after 40 days, harvest is finally over)

best italian roses“Today is the first Sunday I can relax,” wrote winemaker Gianni Cantele on his Facebook over the weekend, “after forty days of full-immersion harvest. It’s a beautiful day and it reminds me how nice it is to feel the north wind blow, even when it reaches speeds of more than 20 knots.”

“And so today is the day that I’ll finally leave the monastery otherwise known as Guagnano.”

“Who knows if they’ll take me back when I get home?”

“I’ll win over the kids with a fishing trip. Trip is the right word: normally, I take them fishing all the time.”

“And I’ll use these roses that you see in the photo to try to convince my wife not to leave me. Depending on how it goes, I may or may not be looking for offers of a couch to sleep on.”

Children of a lesser Brett: Gianni Cantele responds to Carlo Macchi

best negroamaro harvest 2014Above: Negroamaro grapes being harvested in Puglia.

In a post published earlier this week entitled “Negroamaro, a king often with no clothes,” Tuscan wine critic Carlo Macchi recounts his experience at a recent tasting of Negroamaro-based wines and quotes his colleague Paolo Costantini:

“The interpretations of Negroamaro-based wines… do not follow any guiding tenet. The hand of the producer undeniably counts more than the appellation or the grape variety. Absurdly, the best expressions of the appellation are the most technical, impeccably and perfectly dressed wines. But they are also distant and a bit cold. Handsome wines with little heart and little Salento. And many of them are glazed over with wood. The so-called ‘modern’ style.”

Macchi laments that the majority of wines he tasted were overly dense and that they lacked freshness. Heavy-handed use of new oak aging, high levels of alcohol and residual sugar, he writes, trump food-friendliness in many cases.

“Dear producers,” he exhorts, “the years when Cosimo Taurino took the American market to the cleaners are over. Today, we need wines that you can drink. Aromatic, elegant, delicious wines that taste like the south and not like wood.”

Winemaker Gianni Cantele’s response, posted in the comment thread to the post, follows.

Translations from the Italian by blogmaster Jeremy Parzen.

*****

Dear Carlo,

After reading your article, I’d like to share a few thoughts with you and your readers.

Without a doubt, Negroamaro is the most surly and difficult grape variety that we have here in Salento.

It’s not very generous: it never gives you anything for free and what it does give you, first in the vineyards and then in the cellar, is the fruit of hard work and tireless effort.

That’s not to say that life is easier with other grape varieties. But, beyond the current vintage, a late August harvest, naturally, allows you to secure the desired results thirty days before the Negroamaro harvest.

I can guarantee you that you’ll hear growers curse a lot less when they harvest at the end of August.

Having said that, I find that the criticism you quote from Constantini is spot on. The lack of consistency in the enological interpretation of Negroamaro cannot be explained solely with the word terroir.

The same thing happened for the Salice Salentino DOC (where Negroamaro is the main grape) before the advent of the over-arching monitoring of the appellation. On one hand, winemakers loathe the regulation because of its complexity and bureaucracy. But on the other hand, it’s also helped to “guide” everyone toward a more ethical application of the appellation’s rules.

The IGTs allow producers to exercise “free thought.” When tastemakers reward only wine with the same homogenous traits, the lack of consistency in varietal expression is screwed.

All of us winemakers should take greater responsibility in this. We’re always ready to come together and talk about how we can achieve “greatness.” But when it comes to taking action, our altruism goes out the window.

The “syrupy style” criticism is also and even more spot on. It’s been spoon-fed to consumers who have all but given up on elegance and drinkability in the wines they like.

But this isn’t just Negroamaro’s problem. Many of the highly rated wines from Puglia suffer from this, some of them with more than 7-8 grams per liter of residual sugar.

Ok, so the appellations regulations tell us that in such cases, we need to… What a pain in the ass!

In any case, your article takes a narrow view in an extremely diverse and rich panorama of winemakers. And you seem to overlook the fact that some producers are committed to making the wines from our appellation better.

I’m one of those producers. For me, Negroamaro represents a challenge with each vintage. Every year, I must sharpen the winemaking tools in my shed (even though, technically, I’m a “food science technician” by training, the term winemaker fits my job description). And I do so passionately and with a deep and unremitting sense of critical self-awareness.

I’m my own harshest critic. When I read about “impeccably and perfectly dressed” wines made with technology that makes them overly polished, I am reminded of conversations that I had at least ten years ago with American and European wine writers who found my wines to be lacking in the “classic rustic character” of Negroamaro.

Even back then, I was already monitoring the presence of volatile phenolics in every bottle I had in the cellar. I was pissed off and I would have people taste the wines that had the highest amounts. But then I would see a smile return to the tasters’ faces.

You can’t accuse me of being a producer who aims for the praise of wine magazines and guides. If that were the case, you’d also have to accuse me of being an idiot since I haven’t received any of these wonderful accolades in recent years.

I reluctantly send my wines to tastings. And it’s annoying: I wish that they were conducted blind using bottles purchased on the market and not sent ad hoc. Dignity in tasting is another question…

Carlo, when you’re ready to talk about what Negroamaro is in Salento and about what a not-so-young producer, with non-indigenous origins but with deep-seated roots in this magnificent land, thinks about it, I’ll be happy to welcome you here.

Luckily, I don’t have many casks with unbridled phenolics. Hot water, steam, and maniacal attention during aging have allowed me to make wines that taste less of “wet wool” or “wet duck,” as your American colleagues like to say, and more of Negroamaro.

But I’m afraid that for you and a few other Italian commentators, our wines will always be the “children of a lesser Brett.”

Cordially,

Gianni Cantele