Friday 24 August 2018

More Ponza wine

Gerardo Mazzella
Anziane Cantine Migliaccio is the only Pontine winery - or is it? There are three other wines - all white - from the island of Ponza of which at least one is grown and vinified there.

First, the very lovely Marisa Taffuri 'Vino di Bianca'  from Malvasia, Biancolella, Chardonnay and Sauvignon - 'ottenuto da uve selezionate e prodotto sull'isola di Ponza'.

It is related that a couple from Rome, Marisa Taffuri and her husband Maurizio Pouchain bought a property in Ponza in 1977. Already wine producers in the province of Beneventano, Campania, they planted Biancolella, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne and Rousanne in Ponza.

said to be the Azienda Agricola Marisa Taffuri at Giancos, Ponza.
We didn't see the vineyard or winery but they are said to be at Giancos near the port.

Next a wine from the Lazio producer Casale del Giglio. It has been written;
The vines are located along a small plateau, called "Piano degli Scotti" near the Faro della Guardia, a building dating back to the 19th century. The Faro della Guardia is an absolute novelty in the wide and selected range of wines of the company Casale del Giglio, a real "gem" that already saw the debut of important awards. The Biancolella variety, originally from the island of Ischia, has arrived at the time of the Bourbons on the island of Ponza and here has yielded excellent quality results. "I fell in love with it," confesses Antonio Santarelli, "and I decided to plant a vineyard. Given the results of this first vintage, I can say that I am absolutely satisfied ".
It would seem that this wine is made at the Casale del Giglio cellars at Aprile, Lazio although we are open to correction on this point.The label doesn't mention any winery on Ponza.

At their Aprilia winery, Casale del Giglio also make a Petit Manseng - a rarity in Italy.

The deep golden colour is a hint of what it tastes like.  Gerardo's delicious home-made Biancolella

Finally with a claim to be among the best, the wine produced by Gerardo for his delightful restaurant 'da Gerardo.' this one is worth the 100 plus steep climb up from the rocks below or even the 20 Euro taxi ride from the port alone.

On Gerardo's menu the wine is offered in quantities of 1/4. 1/2 and 1 litre only without any further hint as to its colour or provenance.

not sure where Gerardo's vineyard is but vines grow at the restaurant
In fact it is 100% Biancolella from Gerardo's own grapes by the following recipe;


2.5 days cold soak with punch over (pigeage - punch down).

Machine press.

28 days fermentation in glass demijohns

2 rackings

Cellar temp 8 degrees. Humid (the cellar is carved from tufo).

Result - one of the loveliest Biancolellas it is possible to imagine. From these examples, we can say Biancolella is a truly outstanding grape. Those who have tried to grow Biancolella outside Campania, Ischia and Ponza have to contend with Pernospera and Coulure. According to D'Agata (Native wine grapes of Italy), the grape makes wines that are very site specific but hails it as having the potential to be delicious with complexity and depth of flavour uncommon in many Italian white wines.

I'll have the Torta di alici al forno
Gerardo, restauranteur of genius


Wednesday 22 August 2018

August 30th, 31st or September 3rd - International Cabernet day?

Apparently, there's an International Cabernet Day! It's all a bit vague: which Cabernet? Cabernet Blanc, Cabernet-Malbec, Boudable, Carbon, Carol, Colonjes, Cortis, Cubin, Dorio, Dorsa, Franc, Gernischt, Gris, Handia, Jura, Lion, Mitos, Moravia, Petit, Pfeffer, Sauvignon, Severny, Shelongzhu, Volos?

La Colombette Cabernet Noir

It's Sauvignon, stupid!

What day? The Ridge website has it as August 30th, others August 31st (OK, that was last year) and September 3rd. The idea is to have it on the Thursday before Labor day which would make Ridge correct this year. The 3rd is actual Labor day.

Wine Folly Blog:

"September 3 Cabernet Day Rick Bakas, the NoCal native and twitter guru, came up with the idea of #CabernetDay back in 2010. It’s grown ever since and is on the Thursday before Labor day each year."

and further, they suggest
March 3rd Mulled Wine Day

April 17th Malbec Day

('an internationally celebrated event that most recently featured a large film festival') 

May 4th Sauvignon Blanc Day

('New Zealand's cjampion grape variety delebrated at the height of harvest down under')

May 9th Moscato Day

('Moscato is the name for Muscat Blanc. We’re not sure who started this day, but it’s great to see that sweet white wines have at least one day represented in the year.')

May 21st Chardonnay day 

('The earliest mention we could find about ChardDay was in 2010 on May 21st! It was born with the idea of being on the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend by Rick Bakas').

June 11th (or August 14th) Rose Wine Day

 ('Regardless of which day you pick, the main rule about Rosé day is to drink it before Labor day').

August 1st Albariño Day

('Albariño day was created was created to happen during the Albariño festival in the Galician town of  Cambados in Spain. Cambados in Spain. The Spanish love their festivals and so do we!') 

August 18th Pinot Noir Day

('The International Pinot Noir Celebration occurs every year right at the end of July. Perhaps National Pinot Noir day is the official decompression party').   

September 15th Grenache Day

('The 3rd Friday in September is the official #GrenacheDay every year. The Grenache Association was created in France to bring awareness to this lovely variety and they plan to have a symposium and master class series every 3 years.')    

November 7th Merlot Day

('We can’t find any mention of this day prior to 2011 and the person who seems convinced that it’s on November 7th is We don’t care whether or not it’s official, this often under-appreciated red wine totally deserves its own day.')

November 12th 

('Tempranillo Day Tempranillo day was started by TAPAS or Tempranillo Advocates, Producers And Amigos who passionately push this dry climate Spanish variety.')

November 15th Zinfandel Day

('National Zinfandel Day is advocated by ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) who also hold a huge Zinfandel tasting in San Francisco every year. It changes from year to year, landing on the third Wednesday every November.')

December 31th Champagne Day

('By default, sparkling wine gets New Year’s Eve as its official appreciation day. FYI, you can drink any kind of sparkling wine, including Champagne.')

There have been other days suggested by others. Didn't we hear of Riesling Day?

Monday 13 August 2018

Ponza Island Wine

Ponza is a small island 23 miles off the West coast of Italy mid-way between Rome and Naples. Favourite playground for Romans both ancient and modern it is practically free of visitors from outside Italy. If you do bump into Americans they are likely to be descended from Ponzesi and other nationalities may be off visiting yachts. Some of these may be celebs. Beyonce is a regular for example.

Nearly 300 years ago, the population had fallen to a very low level so Carlo di Borbone decided to bring in some inhabitants from Ischia with the promise of land.

the Punta Fieno vineyard is so steep the grapes have to be brought up by 'telepherique'
In 1734 Piero Migliaccio was given a steep plot named Punta Fieno which was - with a lot of terracing work - suitable for grape cultivation.

There are in fact grapevines dotted all over Ponza but the Punta Fieno estate is the main one and wine has been produced from that vineyard almost continuously since its inception. It is still pristine thanks to its inaccessibility. Even today it takes a 40 minute hike to get there. This is the very definition of agricoltura eroica.

The grapes brought from Ischia included Biancolella, Forastera, Guarnaccia, Aglianico and Piedirosso. Ponza is in Lazio and Ischia in Campania. Some of these varieties are forbidden to Lazio with the exception of Ponza so there is a number of factors which make the wine of Ponza special.

The present owners of Antiche Cantine Migliaccio are Emanuele (Manolo) Vittorio and Luciana Sabino. Manolo is a nephew of a Migliaccio and is in his other profession a dentist. In fact it seems the whole family are dentists across three generations.

view from the terrace with a few vines in the foreground
The Vittorio-Sabino family live in Naples but a dozen years ago Manolo and Luciana bought a property in Ponza Porto and established their winery there.

natural light and ventilation

the original breakthrough hole now bricked up
By remarkable good fortune, they discovered a large cistern below their house which is now used as part of the winery and for storage.

If this sounds like a mom and pop operation, nothing could be further from the truth. Antiche Cantine Migliaccio is a serious and professional operation producing wines of international standard. An enologist has always been on hand - these days Vincenzo Mercurio.

full page article in 'Corriere della sera'
The fame of Antiche Cantine Migliaccio wines has spread and no doubt will spread further with the present standard of production.

Luciana holds tastings every Wednesday and Saturday. When we announced ourselves our only opportunity was a Friday. Luciana was kind enough to lay on a tasting especially for us on this day off.

It began with a very professional video presentation, then a tour of the facilities. Finally a tasting with 'aperitivi.' We learned that in Italian this means 'bits' not aperitifs.

Manolo and Luciana are 'personi deliziosi' and their wines are deliziosi too.

We started with the Biancolella (production 1,500 bottles approximately). We had been aware of Biancolella previously but it took a visit to Ponza and Ischia to realise what a great grape this is. We had several examples on this on our trip around the Gulf of Naples. The Migliaccio Biancolella is a dryer one than some.

Then came the signature Fieno di Ponza, Biancolella blended with Forastera (5,000 bottles).


As with the red, the rose blend is Piedirosso and Guarnaccia. 1,000 of this rosato is produced.

Rosso from 2017 bottled in May 2018

Manolo and Luciana insisted on us taking a fresh bottle each as a going home present. We chose the Fieno di Ponza white and Fieno di Ponza Rosso  (1,000 bottles produced). Unfortunately we couldn't resist breaking into them late on our trip much as we would have liked to take them back to London.

Friday 10 August 2018

We get to judge wine. Concours Amphore, Paris.

In a roundabout way we heard of an annual event in Paris - the Concours Amphore. At first we thought this might be a competition to find the best Amphora maker. We had been looking at amphora online for one of our our micro vinifications and so the idea of an exhibition space full of amphora and their makers seemed just the thing.

This was of course a characteristic Slotovino misunderstanding. The Concours Amphore is actually a competition for bio wines held annually since 1996 in Paris in which over 100 judged get to taste wines blind from different areas - both French and international - and rate them according to an ingenious marking system and elect winners of Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. Not an amphora in sight although some of the wines had had more than a passing acqaintance with them.

the man himself, Pierre Guigui
The founder and still the organiser of this institution is Pierre Guigui, a marvellous character described as 'ex-monsieur Vins du Gault et Millau. He is also a writer and consultant with more than 15 publications to his name.

He was kind enough to allow us to attend the competition. We would have been happy to do so as an observer but in fact there are only judges and so never having done so before, we did indeed judge.

You were supposed to declare your interest beforehand so you could be allotted to a relevant table (Bordeaux, Languedoc, Greece etc.). Tables consisted of 4 judges. Having failed to give this notice, M. Guigui told us to find a table where there were less than 4 judges and take our place there.

We managed to insinuate ourselves onto an Alsace/Jura/Savoie table (very much to our taste) with two gentlemen and a lady already in residence and then off we went in a businesslike way.

We were given several pages with easy to follow instructions on the clever judging system. You may be able to see from the above that there was a matrix consisting of

Visuel Aspect
Olfactif Intensite Qualite
Gustatif Qualite Persistance
Impression Generale

and scores relating to Excellent, Tres Bon, Bon, Insuffisant and Mauvais.

Our fellow judges were serious and knowledgeable, discussing each wine in the way French people are so good at. Some of the talk was a bit abstract for us but they seemed to share a common gamut of references. From time to time they sought to include us in these deliberations but we didn't go much further than nodding sagely and saying in general if a wine had made a good impression or not.


We marked down the very first wine probably too severely for fear of being too generous but were rather happy at the end to have chosen the same wine as the others as our candidate for Gold: Zind-Humbrecht's Alsace Grand Cru Rangen de Thann Pinot Gris.

the label doesn't reflect the quality of this lovely wine

delicious Orange wine

good Sylvaner from Alsace
We rather likes some of the other wines at our table but our colleagues had other ideas and none of these received a medal

After the judging, we were able to go around the remaining wines from other tables and taste to our hearts content,

Savatiano, Malagouzia and Co.
remnants from the Greek table with Austrian accompaniments.

popular non-PC buffet
A characteristic buffet was provided with food much like that we had seen at the Rencontres de cepages modestes a couple of years back in St. Come d'Olt and reminiscent of French school food we had eaten years ago. Hearty and surprisingly unsophisticated stuff which everyone tucked in to with pleasure,

The whole exercise had been great fun. We had been the only outsiders but were welcomed in a collegiate fashion. Our table had included a younger chap who admitted he came from 'La Biere,' a more senior gentleman who turned out to be an enthusiast planting a vineyard on a site of an 'ancien vignoble francais disparu.' The elegant lady did most of the pouring so we asked her if perhaps she was a Sommelier. That was not the case she said so we complimented he on her way with the bottles to which she only said 'forcement.' Clearly a wine professional.

Waving goodbye to the genial M. Guigui - mobbed by a great many after the judging - we left on something of a cloud. It had all been a lot of quite serious fun and very French in a good way and no doubt served an important function in selection and marketing of the best that biological wine producers have to offer.

where it all happened, Salon Mas, Paris 13ieme.
See the full list of medal winners from the 2018 competition here: