A Cantele harvest tradition: Mamma’s eggplant parmigiana

eggplant parmigiana recipe best italyIt’s become something of a CanteleUSA tradition: Every year we post an image of the eggplant parmigiana that Mrs. Cantele makes for Gianni during post-harvest vinification when he’s literally on call 24/7.

As the saying goes, wine waits for no [hu]man. Gianni spends each night at the winery lovingly guarding over his fermenting grape must.

And every year, without missing a beat, Mrs. Cantele sends her now famous eggplant (above).

Here’s what Gianni had to say on his Facebook yesterday together with the photo…

Over the last few days, I’ve forgotten to post the photo of the eggplant parmigiana that my mother had waiting for me at the winery.

I love how she makes it and I just go crazy for it.

It really helps to raise my spirits when I’m tired and beat from the exhausting days of the harvest.

Mom, thank you for this dish and for the countless times I’ve forgotten to thank you!

Late harvest Chardonnay & mamma’s eggplant parmigiana

late harvest chardonnay

Grape grower and winemaker Gianni Cantele posted this beautiful photo of late-harvest Chardonnay on his Facebook this week.

But the photo that had us salivating like Pavlov’s dog was the one he posted of his mother’s melanzane alla parmigiane (eggplant parmigiana), that unlikely and irresistible pairing of the fruits of southern Italy (yes, eggplant is a fruit and not a vegetable) and one of the great food products of the Italy’s north, Parmigiano Reggiano.

eggplant parmigiana recipe

“My harvest exile in the cellar continues,” writes Gianni, who, like all winemakers during this period of the year, literally lives at the winery without being able to return home. “I’m beginning to miss my bed and the comforts of home. But I will stoically carry on.”

“There are two things that give me the strength not to give up: Negroamaro grapes worth shouting about (a great vintage!) and my mother’s eggplant parmigiana.”

Fermentation and harvest going well (and even time for a bike ride)

negroamaro grapes ripening

A note on the harvest from grape grower and winemaker Gianni Cantele:

Today we’ll begin picking the Chardonnay again from most of the vineyards, including the second part of the grapes that will be used for the Teresa Manara.

Yesterday morning the musts were fermenting at the right temperature (15° C.). The saccharimeter confirmed that fermentation is going well and it took just one pumpover to finish the day’s work.

This unexpected abundance of free time posed a dilemma: a day at the beach with the family or a visit to the vineyards to check up on the vineyards that will be picked over the next few days?

The second option… I know, I know… I’m a schmuck. No need to remind me! But my wife Gabriella was already one step ahead of me.

After driving a few kilometers, I took a long walk through the rows as I imagined the wine that these grapes will give me.

I also checked on the analysis of samples form the vineyards.

And then, it was time for the indefatigable winemaker to have a bite to eat (mom’s parmigiana was worth waiting for) and a well deserved nap.

But Sunday isn’t Sunday without a ride on my mountain bike.

madonna dell alto puglia church

My regular riding partners Pierfrancesco Grima and Fabio Brazo Tamborrino stood me up. So I took the opportunity to take a ride through [the townships of] Guagnano, Campi Salentina, and Squinzano.

I went up and down through the village of Sant’Elia and its vineyards, olive groves, and what remains of the ancient forest of holm oaks there. In another era, those trees covered the entire region.

I stopped at the little church of the Madonna dell’Alto (twelfth century), a monument that, unfortunately, isn’t well maintained.

ripe figs puglia

Then I took a look at the Negroamaro grapes (above, top), which are ripening, and the figs, which are also ripening.

As with all summer excursions, there is no outing without a flat tire. But I had no desire to change it so I just took an easy ride back to the winery where I arrived safe and sound.

I checked the saccharimeter again, had a dinner of cheese risotto, had a look at Facebook, and then went to bed. Today will be a long day and it began at dawn.

I have the best job in the world!

Long days and a few mechanical mishaps with harvest well underway

A note from winemaker Gianni Cantele:

chardonnay fermentation puglia italy

Above: Chardonnay 2013, tank 27. Fermentation is well underway. I wish I had an app that would allow you to experience the aroma! Happy summer vacation, everyone!

Ugh. Maybe I was too optimistic.

The first day of harvest went fine. Then there was a whole series of minor mechanical mishaps. I’ve never seen something like this where everything went wrong at the same moment.

But man can’t allow himself to be one-upped by machines, especially when all it takes to fix things is a little bit of elbow-grease and a big hammer.

We have some long days ahead of us. We get up at dawn to coordinate our work in the vineyards with our agronomist Cataldo Ferrari. Then we rush to the cellar to check up on the must from the day before. We keep it chilled for 12 hours and we need to make sure that it remains clear until the right moment. We also need to make sure that the presses are prepped for new grapes and that the refrigerator repairman is willing to interrupt his summer vacation to come fix a refirgerator that’s on the fritz.

Man, why oh why does everyone in Italy have to take their vacation in August!!!???

From this point onward, I’ll have to deal with the delicate magic of fermentation and the anxious waiting for the shy bubbles to appear on the surface of the must.

Then we’ll stand by and watch as billions of Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells begin to attack the must. That’s when that extraordinary, unique aroma invades the cellar. Have you ever smelled it? It’s a pity if you haven’t. And if you want to, you know where to find me!

Stay tuned…

Harvest in Puglia has begun! A note from winemaker Gianni Cantele

best chardonnay italy

Above: Chardonnay, ready to be picked, from Cantele’s top vineyard, destined to become the winery’s flagship white, Teresa Manara Chardonnay, dedicated to winemaker Gianni’s grandmother.

The first day of the 2013 harvest has been entered into the logs without any problems.

The elves who work the crushers and presses (which haven’t been fired up for a year now) didn’t play any of their usual pranks and it’s all running smoothly.

Yesterday’s work in the cellar was the classic general trial run: it helps the winemaker to peel off that inevitable patina of rust and to find the right pace and rhythm that can be taught by the harvest. You love it, you hate it, and then you love it once again.

Today we have begun working in earnest.

When I got up this morning, I thought of my grandmother, Teresa Manara, and of my many memories of her. They make me return to childhood.

And I thought of my father Augusto, who taught me everything I know. He has entrusted me with the task of continuing to create the wine dedicated to his beloved mother Teresa Manara.

Gianni Cantele
winemaker