Perfect Negroamaro! More harvest notes from Gianni

From Gianni’s Facebook, posted earlier this week…

negroamaroOne of the strange things about this vintage is the level of ripening and veraison [onset of ripening] of late-ripening red grape varieties like Negroamaro [above] and Montepulciano.

Now we just need the tramontana [the north wind] and some sunny days and we’ll have a great harvest.

As I’m writing this, I’m crossing my fingers and everything else I can!

Look at the fantastic Negroamaro [in the photo] from Filippi in Salice Salentino! It’s the result of a perfect pairing of clone and rootstock. The funny thing is that this happened by chance! And it shows that we still have much work to do in understanding how to get the best from this grape variety.

Gianni Cantele
grape grower and winemaker

Gorgeous Fiano! Harvest notes from winemaker Gianni Cantele

The Cantele family is gearing up for harvest 2014. It’s been an unusual vintage, in part because of an unusually mild winter in Italy. But things are shaping up nicely. The following are notes from grape grower and winemaker Gianni Cantele.

fiano vineyard pugliaAbove: Fiano in Pulsano township (Taranto province).

One of the most beautiful vineyards of this vintage. Truly impeccable, with balanced production and totally on track for ripening. The ripeness should be perfect toward the end of next week.

It’s not actually an indigenous grape variety. But it’s beautiful to see its loosely compact bunches and its slightly oblong berries and still “sturdy” skins.

The kind of lab results that you dream of! 18.5° Babo (21.79° Brix), 8.3 g/l total acidity, and 3.13 pH.

It’s been a strange vintage and I’m already thinking about how I can get these grapes to give their best when we ferment them.

Gianni Cantele

fiano variety puglia

One of the wines that Ray Isle brought to Puglia

In case you haven’t seen Food & Wine executive wine editor Ray Isle’s profile of Cantele in the September issue of the magazine, here’s a link to the article.

When you read the piece, you’ll discover how Ray — who is the nicest guy, by the way — brought some wines with him. It was an experiment: he wanted to see how wines from other places would taste when paired with Pugliese cuisine and then compare them with local wines.

Paolo and he paired the 2011 Cliff Lede Stags Leap District — a Napa Valley cult Cabernet Sauvignon — with Caciocavallo Podolico, “a great pairing,” wrote Paolo on his Facebook.

Click here to read the “results” of Ray’s happy experiment. You might be surprised at what he discovered…

ray isle wine writer puglia

Top wine writer Ray Isle features Cantele and iSensi in Food & Wine

food wine magazine pugliaGianni and Paolo Cantele and their iSensi cooking school are featured in a profile by Ray Isle for the September 2014 issue of Food & Wine.

“For decades,” writes Ray Isle, Food & Wine executive wine editor and one of the most popular writers in the U.S. today, “most Pugliese wine was sold in bulk to northern Italy.”

“‘I remember my grandfather working all day to send wine out of Puglia — these huge trucks taking wine up to make vermouth,” says Giuseppe Cupertino, sommelier for Due Camini at the Borgo Egnazia resort, one of the region’s top restaurants. ‘They’d come to my hometown in November, truck after truck after truck — even late at night. I’d see their lights driving away.'”

“Augusto Cantele was one of the first local winemakers to try to change that situation, and he worked for decades to raise people’s awareness of Puglia’s extraordinary potential. Now his sons, Paolo and Gianni, are running the Cantele Winery with the same ambition.”

Click here to read a complete version of the article.

Orecchiette, the world’s greatest pasta shape? A wonderful festival in Grottaglie

best recipe orecchiette pastaThere’s a saying in Puglia: when a man learns how to make orecchiette, it’s time for him to leave home and get married.

Orecchiette, the “little ear” macaroni (orecchia means ear in Italian), are the centerpiece of Pugliese cooking. Typically served with tomato sauce and ricotta salata, with small meatballs and tomato sauce, or with broccoli raab and sausage, orecchiette are the backbone of Pugliese gastronomy.

Earlier this week, the beautiful medieval city of Grottaglie (Taranto province) hosted a wonderful orecchiette festival called “Orecchiette nelle ‘nchiosce.”

The festival title comes from Grottaglie’s ‘nchiosce, its winding, narrow streets, porticos, and doorways — literally, orecchiette in the nooks and crannies of the city.

For two days, Monday and Tuesday of this week, leading Pugliese chefs and a handful of Italian film and television stars gathered to celebrate the pasta shape: festival participants followed a “map” of Grottaglie’s best restaurants where they could sample dishes made with orecchiette ranging from the traditional to the avant-garde.

The Negroamaro IGT by Cantele (one of the event sponsors) was chosen as the “best pairing” for orecchiette con crema di pomodoro al forno, melanzane e formaggio dei poveri, oven-fired orecchiette with tomato cream, eggplant, and poor person’s cheese by chef Mario Musci (Gallo Restaurant in Trani in Barletta-Andria-Trani province).

What is formaggio dei poveri or poor person’s cheese, you ask?

It’s toasted bread crumbs.

We can’t think of a better way to celebrate the world’s greatest pasta shape or a better pairing for one of our favorite wines.

Image via the Orecchiette nelle ‘nchiosce website.

Harvest is almost here, weather conditions are ideal

puglia harvest weather conditionsDespite the occasional rain shower, the weather in Lecce province has been excellent. And the small amount of rain fall is just enough to help cool the grapes without damaging them.

As you can see from the forecast above (the screen shot was taken at 10 p.m. Lecce time), sunshine and warm temperatures — the classic weather for this time of year — are predicted for the next week. And extended forecasts call for good weather for the next ten days.

During the 2014 growing cycle, northern and central Italy have been plagued by hailstorms and heavy, incessant rainfall.

Sadly, many of Italy’s most famous appellations have already lost a large portion of their crop.

And the continued rainfall isn’t helping: rain at this time of year brings down temperatures drastically and as a result, grapes aren’t ripening swiftly enough in affected areas. It can also cause persistent rot and mildew.

In some ways, this year’s harvest in Italy is reminiscent of the area immediately after the Second World War, when northern growers were lucky to have one solid vintage every decade. In a time before climate change, cold weather during the crucial summer months (when grapes need the warmth to ripen fully) could ruin the entire year’s work.

That was a time when northern grape growers and winemakers often bought wine from Puglia in order to bolster their own wines and give them the desired color and alcohol level.

We’ll be following the Puglia harvest here on the blog. Stay tuned!

The perfect pizza wine? It could be Primitivo.

spicy pizza austinAbove: The “Piccante” pizza at Due Forni in Austin is a Neapolitan crust topped with soppressata, Fresno peppers, buffalo’s milk mozzarella, and San Marzano tomatoes.

We were thrilled to learn that Due Forni in Austin, Texas is serving Cantele Primitivo by the glass.

Austin is one of Paolo Cantele’s favorite cities in the U.S. (he’s even been to Chicken Shit Bingo at Ginny’s Little Long Horn Saloon) and Due Forni, one of the most popular pizzerias in Las Vegas, which opened its Texas outpost in December 2013, is already making a name for itself in a city where the food and wine scene is literally exploding.

Italians are always a little puzzled when they see Americans pair wine with pizza. In Italy, pizza is generally paired with beer or Coca Cola. Occasionally, people will drink sparkling wine with pizza. But it’s rare that you’ll see Italians drinking still wine with pizza. It’s not a taboo. It’s just tradition.

But in America, where pizza leaves the chains of tradition behind, no pairing is out of bounds.

New Yorker and Italian wine expert Charles Scicolone is legendary for his pairing of pizza and Nebbiolo, for example (have a look at this post; in it, he describes a once-in-a-lifetime flight of Barolo paired with pizza).

One of the issues with pairing pizza and wine is that pizza is always served piping hot (soup is another dish that poses this challenge in choosing a pairing). Dishes served very hot tend to dominate the palate with their aromas and flavors. As a result, the flavors of the wine can be muted.

Another issue, especially when it comes to pizza in the U.S., where non-traditional toppings like the ones above can be as colorful as they are delicious, is that the flavors of pizza can be very intense.

These are just some of the reasons that — we feel — that Primitivo is such a great wine to pair with pizza.

Primitivo, when made in a traditional style like the Cantele Primitivo, has rich fruit flavor and body that can stand up to the heat and spice of a pizza like the Piccante at Due Forni.

And it also has a velvety texture that, together with its grapey and juicy notes, wraps itself around the flavor combination in pizza.

But the most important element is the acidity that we obtain in our Primitivo: you need that acidity to match the acidity of the tomatoes (San Marzano is one of the most acidic tomato varieties) and the mozzarella, which also has a high acidity content.

Of course, no pizza pairing is perfect unless you find the perfect pizza!

We can’t wait to try the pizza at Due Forni the next time Paolo makes it back to Austin.

Due Forni Pizza & Wine
106 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 391-9300
Google map

Image via the Due Forni (Austin) Facebook.