Earthquake relief efforts: Here’s how to donate (from the U.S.)

italy earthquakeAmmado is the official micro-donation platform for the Italian Red Cross.

Here’s the link for donations to the Italian Red Cross and earthquake relief efforts. Donations can be made using a credit card and don’t require an Italian social security number (Italian micro-donation channels require one).

Here’s a link to information on what the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is doing on the ground in central Italy to aid recovery.

At Fiamma in Bethlehem PA a brilliant idea for wine lists

best italian restaurant bethlehem paIt’s always interesting to be poking around the internets to see where Cantele wines are being served.

And we are always curious to discover creative and innovative wine lists like the one at Fiamma Grill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

It’s a great list with lots of classic selections.

But the thing that really blew us away was for each wine on the list, the wine director also includes recommended pairings.

It’s a truly brilliant way to present the wines. Even for someone not familiar with Italian grape varieties and famous Italian wineries, it’s immediately approachable and navigable.

Hats off to the owners and authors of this fantastic wine program! We are proud to be part of it.

Fiamma Italian Grill
2118 Schoenersville Rd.
Bethlehem PA 18017
(610) 419-6545
Google map

Image via the Fiamma Facebook.

On oak aging, a note by winemaker Gianni Cantele

puglia barriqueAbove: The cask aging cellar at Cantele (photo by Wine Friend).

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.

Master of Wine Liz Thach visits Cantele

sonoma state university southern italy tripAbove: Gianni Cantele with Master of Wine Liz Thach (right). Dr. Thach called it “the best wine tasting selfie ever!”

The only thing more thrilling than welcoming a Master of Wine to the Cantele winery (earlier this summer) is reading her impressions of the visit on her blog.

Dr. Liz Thach, MW came to Salento in late May with a group of students from Sonoma State University, where she teaches at the Wine Business Institute.

And this week, she shared her notes on her wonderful blog, Wine Travel Stories, including an overview of the winery and tasting notes.

The group happened to arrive during Cantine Aperte (Open Cellars), an annual event held across Italy: Across the country, wineries literally “open there doors” and hold free tastings and serve light bites to any and all visitors.

“We arrived at Cantine Cantele around 4:30 in the afternoon,” she writes, “and discovered it was hopping, with lots of good music, crowds of local Italians, children and dogs running around, and everyone gesturing and talking loudly. There were games set up for the children, and lots of free food and wine. We loved it!”

She had high marks for the entire flight she tasted but the wine that seemed to impress her the most was the Amativo: “It reminded me very much of a big red zinfandel from Lodi — huge plush tannins, concentrated, jammy, spicy fruity with chocolate notes. Over the top, decadent, and causing most everyone who tasted it to fall in love instantly.”

Click here for her excellent post.

And click here to read her bio on her personal blog.

Thank you, Dr. Thach!

About Dr. Thach (from the Institute of Masters of Wine website):

Dr. Liz Thach is the Distinguished Professor of Wine and a Professor of Management at Sonoma State University in the Wine Business Institute where she teaches in both the undergraduate and Wine MBA programmes. In addition, she has 10 years of executive and management level experience at Fortune 500 companies and has done consulting and research projects for more than 30 different wineries. Liz’s passion is wine, and she has visited most of the major wine regions of the world and more than 25 countries. In addition, she has published over 120 articles and eight wine books, including Wine – A Global Business and Wine Marketing & Sales. A fifth generation Californian, Liz finished her Ph.D. at Texas A&M and now lives on Sonoma Mountain, where she tends a small hobby vineyard and makes garagiste wine. She also works as a wine judge in various competitions, and has served on many non-profit wine boards.