As I near my 1000 post on this blog, I’ve been reflecting on some of the factors that shaped it and participating in Wine Studio’s educational programs on Tuesday nights at 6pm since 2014 is one of them. Through Tina Morey, I had access to wines I wouldn’t have been able to taste otherwise, and via the educational format with experts and others chiming in on twitter as we taste through wines, I learned a lot. Recently, Tina ended the WineStudio season with a special event hosted by Susannah Gold with Donnachiara’s Ilaria Petitto. For Wine Predator Post #999, here’s my write up from the conversation and my thoughts about the wines and pairings.
At Donnachiara they say they tend their vines as carefully as window boxes “even though the locations can be distinctly challenging. This process makes for superior vines, grapes, and ultimately wines.”
Donnachiara is located in Campania, which is famous for the beautiful landscape of the Amalfi coast, the volcanic fields of fire and as the home to 10 of the 55 UNESCO sites in Italy; Mount Vesuvius is in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
The presence of Mount Vesuvius is everywhere, but as Ilaria Petito says in a ZOOM call with members of #WineStudio, “Vesuvius is sleeping; better for us! Thanks to Vesuvious, the soil is volcanic.”
Located on the shin of the boot of Italy, the volcanic soils of Campania (pronounced like “lasagna”) are rich and fertile from eruptions by Mount Vesuvius. With 35% of the landscape mountainous, 51% is hills where clay, sand, and limestone helps to maintain acidity but the volcanic soils provide magnesium and sulphur which lend a smokiness. The altitude brings a cooler microclimate and a longer growing seasvolcanig topsoil. on.
About 100 native grape varieties related to distinct terroir and cultural heritage grow in the region with Greco, Fiano, Falanghina, and Agilanico the four most important.
Donnachiara makes all four, with the Fiano being organic: “It’s resistant to disease,” explains Ilaria, “so it’s easier to be organic to arrive to October with very good grapes, very good quality.” The 2007 Fiano is a favorite of hers.
Being in southern Italy brings its challenges: “When you work with nature, there is always something,” Ilaria says. “The weather is changing a lot” for example, increased frosts. “You can’t control nature, the weather.”
Previous generations simply sold the grapes, but in 2005 Ilaria’s mother decided she wanted to make their own wine when she inherited the vines. Donnachiara makes about 200,000 bottles a year, with 60% of production exported. Total Wine carries Donnachiara in the US.
- 2018 Donnachiara “Resilienza” Falaghina, Montefalcione
- 2019 Donnachiara Campania Aglianico – I.G.T – I.G.P.
Considered one of Italy’s three best wine grapes, Aglianico ripens at the end of harvest in late October and early November producing high acid, small thick skinned berries meaning Aglianico wines tend to be rich and intense: lots of body, tannins, and acid. When young, it’s even more concentrated and tannic; usually the wine is aged so that the plum fruit can come out from hiding. Pairing aglianico means business: you want something that will stand up to it the sheer intensity of the tannins and acid, so usually a big fatty meat dish like lamb. For example, here’s a pairing we did with aglianico: wild boar rage plus pizza with plenty of sausage.
But after our ZOOM tasting where I sample the wine with charcuterie, saving the bulk of it to share with Sue, I found it to be accessible even though it was a 2019, so I decided to see how it would go with a planned menu of seared tuna on greens with apricot stilton, walnuts, and pomegranate arils.
Plus, Ilaria says, “It’s not as strong of an aglianico, so you can drink and enjoy.”
If it didn’t work, I’d just open something else!
- Homemade Santa Barbara ridgeback prawn bisque
- Seared fresh local blue fin tuna
on field greens with apricot stilton, walnuts, pomegranate arils
2018 Donnachiara “Resilienza” Falaghina, Montefalcione
ABV 13.5%; SRP $20
Growing up, Ilaria heard her father, a welder and an entrepreneur in steel products, talk about resiliance in welding and wire. Resilience is critical, and the resilience of the metal shows its potential. This falanghina also has potential for resilience in its capacity to improve with age. They are also experimenting with oak treatment.
Color: Green straw
Nose: Banana, coconut, tropical fruit, coconut milk, lemon, lemon lime, coconut lime,
Palate: Lucious mouthfeel, sleek, bright acidity in the flavor that doesn’t make the mouth pucker, almost lemon curd, nice acidity on the finish that lingers quite a nice long time. There is a lot going on in the mid palate. That is where the creaminess hits you. Tropical fruit is also evident on the palate, bright fresh pineapple.
Pairing: Love it with goat cheese as well as brie. Great with shrimp bisque. Recommended with linguine with clam sauce.
They also make a sparkling falanghina that’s imported by Michaelango, and they are working on a still and a sparkling rose with the still released next spring in time for Mother’s Day.
2019 Donnachiara Campania Aglianico I.G.T- I.G.P.
ABV 13%; SRP $20
Color: Ruby with a garnet rim, medium density
Nose: Earthy, dusty, rhubarb, cherry, wild strawberry, poupurie dirt and roses for Sue
Palate: Earth and cherry, dry dirt for Sue like being in the middle of a dust storm in the dessert, tannins and acidity. Dry cocoa powder, cranberry, pomegranate, tart plum .This wine should definitely lay down for a while. Such a baby.
Pairing: Even though this wine is a baby, it went so well with the seared blue fin tuna dish which had plenty of fat to it to manage this aglianico.
Thank you Tina and #WineStudio! It’s been great participating in #WineStudio all these years!
In 2020, we did Carinena and Lugana (which I haven’t written about yet). Highlights from the past include wines from around the world:
- SPAIN: All Aboard for Albarino!
- MENDOCINO: Bonterra Organic and Biodynamic Wines
- ITALY: Easy Fall Fun Flavorful Food with Italian Wines from a Castle!
- ITALY: Ferrari Bubbles from the Italian Alps
- ARGENTINA: Many Moods of Malbec
- SONOMA: Ordaz wines
- SANTA BARBARA: Rhone specialist, tercero (part one white wines, part two red
I’m not sure of the future of #WineStudio, what might be on the schedule for 2021, or whether Tina will move tastings to ZOOM from Twitter. Zoom tastings are very different than a twitter event. We’ll see! Regardless, I look forward to seeing what 2021 brings to the table in terms of wine tastings and #WineStudio!