The Amalfi Coast is a situated on the west coast of Italy, south of Naples. The Amalfi Coast road winds it’s way from Sorrento to the village of Amalfi via a 50 kilometer stretch of road which curves and weaves it’s way along the coast hugging the cliff face. Passing through quaint seaside villages with breathtaking views. It is Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline.
The best time to visit is in Spring or Fall in order to enjoy the warm but not too hot weather and fewer crowds who flock here during July and August.
The Amalfi Coast hosts a vast number of hotels ranging from Five Star Luxury to Romantic Boutique hotels.
What to do on the Amalfi Coast?
Tour the Amalfi Coast with a private driver for a Gourmet Food Tour and indulge your tastebuds in all the best Italian foods the Amalfi Coast has to offer. Mozzarella, limoncello, gelato, pizza, olive oil!
Start your day in the countryside above Sorrento and have a wonderful tour of an extra-virgin olive oil factory overlooking the Amalfi Coast. Experience breathtaking views over Sorrento as you stroll through olive groves, and citrus trees. After a brief explanation of the delicious olive oil produced locally in Sorrento and the history of limoncello-making, it’s then time to taste the delicious oil over freshly baked bread.
Your next visit on the Amalfi Coast Gourmet Tour will be to a cheese farm specializing for over 50 years in making exceptional mozzarella and other cheeses typical of the Amalfi Coast.
No Italian food gourmet day in the Neopolitan area would be complete without an authentic, pizza-making experience. In a charming pizzeria on the Amalfi Coast
you will create your own pizza, using only the freshest ingredients. Enjoy a fantastic lunch of your personalized pizza. After lunch taste the famous limoncello liquor which is made from large, bright local Sorrentine lemons.
Your Amalfi Coast Gourmet Tour couldn’t be complete without dessert, and no better dolce exists on the planet than fresh Italian gelato. Visit a local gelateria where you will learn the secrets of how this age-old delicacy is made and enjoy a gelato tasting to finish off you Amalfi Gourmet Tour.
What better way to enjoy a day on the Amalfi Coast than to treat all of your senses with the unforgettable flavours and fragrances while taking in the breathtaking, spectacular views of this unforgettable coastline.
Have you been to the Amalfi Coast? Looking to plan a visit? Congratulations! You about to embark on one of the things one must see and experience while being on this planet. There is no other place like it, it is one of the world’s few treasured paradises. Visually you will be mesmerized forever by its beauty. Culturally you will be utterly charmed by the local people and food-speaking- you will be spoiled and brought to the verge of tears by how mind blowing the traditional cuisine is. If you have made one of the best decisions of your life to plan a trip to the Amalfi coast or to nearby zones like Sorrento, Naples or Pompeii we have 6 suggestions for things to do near or on the Amalfi coast that Le Baccanti Tours organizes:
The Amalfi Coast vineyards spread out on daring terraces carved over the course of centuries out of the steep slopes that run down to the sea. Their cellars have been excavated since before Caesars times out of the solid hillside rock. White wines with strong personality are made here, whites with their own intense and unmistakable aromas, whites from vines teased and frenzied by the moist salty sea winds that never quite cease to ripple leaves. The reds, too, deserve attention: warm, intense . . . unmistakably Mediterranean. Spend a special day of leisurely wandering among vineyards and wine cellars, sampling white wines rich in sweet bouquets while feeling the cool breeze off the blue Mediterranean Sea sparkling below.
The Region of Campania is well established on tourist maps but, curiously, not on those of wine lovers. Yet these noble and mellow hills have long presented the world with superb products, many of them derived from Ancient Greek grape varietals: little-known “blockbuster” reds and fragrant, delicate whites. The names Greco, a white varietal, and Aglianico, both mean “Greek” the latter deriving from hellenic. The Roman naturalist and historian Pliny the Elder (23-79 A.D.) described both of these grapes in his Encyclopedia. Staying in Naples? You’re in luck because just a few kilometers inland from Naples, a true wine paradise awaits for those seeking a different off-the-beaten-track Italy: Irpinia. Cult wines such as Mastroberadino, Feudi di San Gregorio and Galardi among others are a feature of this terrific wine region.
Just a few miles from the heart of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, are small, charming farms that descend toward to sea. Italian farm agritourisms have lots to offer including amazing cooking classes. A culinary class may begin with a walk through the farms extensive vegetable gardens to collect together the seasonal vegetables to use in your cooking class. You’ll be delighted by delicious smells and tastes of the local produce before heading into the kitchen. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves, don your apron, and kneading the dough for homemade pasta and watch in amazement as this dough takes form and becomes pasta. After all cooking classes in Italy, you’ll sit down and enjoy the meal you have created during your cooking class accompanied by wonderful local wine, water and followed by a sample of one of the farm’s famous liquors. Cooking classes are the perfect activity for food lovers and cooks of all levels visiting Italy.
It’s not just the landscape, the villages, the clear waters, the food, the sun and the sea air…it’s also the people that make the Amalfi coast unique. Take a private boat tour of the Amalfi Coast in Positano or Praiano and enjoy a lovely morning or afternoon with a bright and sunny young local who has was born and raised in Positano, on the Amalfi coast. See the lovely and historic Amalfi Coast from your boat, on route to the fabled islands on which, ancient tradition would have it, the Sirens dwelt and sang their songs to lure sailors to their doom. More recently, the unforgettable ballet dancers Leonide Massine and Rudolph Nurejev lived there. Today these islands are part of a natural reserve.
After a swim in waters rich with marine life, and a Sorrentino gozzo boat tour around the Li Galli islands, have a dip in one of the pleasant fresh-water creeks. Whether you visit the Emeral Grotto, other less famous yet equally beautiful grottoes, water falls and fishing villages around the Amalfi Coast, a boat tour is the best way to explore the region.
When the nearby volcano Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, Pompeii was buried under up to 20 feet of ash and pumice. It was not discovered again until 1700 years later in 1749. Pompeii has been carefully and thoroughly excavated in the over 60 years since its discovery by archeologists thrilled at the chance to see how people lived during Roman times in Southern Italy, nearly 2 millenium ago. The forum, the baths, many houses, and some villas remain well preserved and give a snap shot into daily life. Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist spots in all of Italy with over 2 million visitors a year. Get away from the crowds as your own personal guide takes you back in time for this two hour tour through the maze of streets in Pompeii and you learn about and explore this Roman city frozen forever in time.
Taste all the best foods the Amalfi Coast has to offer Mozzarella, limoncello, gelato, pizza, olive oil! A gourmet tour includes several tastings, lessons in cheese making, olive oil farm visits (if booked in the fall a live olive pressing!), learning how to make pizza and gelato! If you are a serious foodie visiting the Amalfi coast and love from scratch food production, this tour was made for you!
Are these options not enough? Contact the expert travel staff at Le Baccanti to learn more about how you can have the Amalfi Coast vacation of your dreams!
Last night I went on the coast to meet with Luciano Zazzeri, Chef and owner of LaPineta.
America here we come again:)
For many the best seafood restaurant in Italy is La Pineta. It is an elegant, romantic shack on the sea. Luciano cooks the lightest dishes with the perfect balance with perfumes, textures and portions.
We went for the full menu which will be showcased at the Metropolitan Museum and we created the menu for AJ, our first host of Italy at Your Table in 2001.
Our Italian Wine And Food Road Show this year starts in Soho, Manhattan, New York.
We are setting off in a fabulous place, home to a very fine contemporary artist who also happens to have one of the best palates I have ever met.
We will go to the New York fish market in the morning with Luciano to see what’s fresh and good and our day will start right there…from scratch.
Last year I traveled with over thirty wine labels for three months across the country. This year I will be doing less events with only a very exclusive group of producers.
Starting from the South of Italy, I’ll be presenting the wines of Feudi di San Gregorio, quite possibly the most beautiful winery in Southern Italy, located near the Amalfi Coast. This winery excels in making better and better wines each year, thanks to the vision and pragmatism of Antonio Capaldo.
Their main label with me on show will be the Fiano di Avellino Feudi di SanGregorio 2009: mineral, citrus, zesty and very polished with a great persistence.
Moving past Rome and then north again we meet the Arnaldo Caprai winery in Umbria.
Here Marco Caprai has managed to put Umbria back into the wine map with a stunning black fruit driven, austere, tobacco and tar driven Arnaldo Caprai “25 Anni” Sagrantino di Montefalco 2005.
Then we get to Tuscany from Montefalco to the city of Montalcino in less than 2 hours by car. Home of the king of Reds and the Red of Kings is Brunello di Montalcino. We didn’t just go for a generic Brunello, but for a masterpiece, that one of the famous artist Sandro Chia of Castello Romitorio.
Brunello di Montalcino 2005 Castello Romitorio is a very red fruit driven wine with a lot of cherry fruit, licorice and spices.
Still in Tuscany but just an hour north, past the medieval town of Siena is Fontodi.
With it Chianti Classico Vigna del Sorbo: a very robust, muscular black fruit driven wine with a lot of tannic structure. Here Giovanni Manetti also makes a pure Sangiovese Flaccianello2007: packed with suede leather, tobacco, prunes and a very smooth touch.
Three, four valleys north on the way to Florence is Isole e Olena. This wine estate is synonymous with Cepparello. Paolo de Marchi is the owner and wine maker here releasing an uncontaminated elegant soft red fruit silky Sangiovese. Cepparello 2007 is better then ever.
Now it’s time for a little cultural entertaining stop in the capital of Renaissance. Home to the Uffizzi Gallery and the Academia, Florence is an intact architectural gem. Right in the heart of town is the Frilli Gallery, run by a family of artisans who still produce classical reproductions from the very same marble used by Michelangelo, casting bronze with the old Cellini’s lost wax process. Great place to see and touch great masterpieces and to buy original statues.
Moving west toward the Coast we have a couple of very different wineries.
In Suvereto, nearby of the most important Etruscan sites is Petra. A wonderful design cellar built by owner Vittorio Moretti on a Botta Architectural project. Petra IGT is a classic Super Tuscan Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The 2008 release is very elegant and refined with very tame and mature tannins, ripe cherries and black currant and a smooth finish.
Right in front of the Tuscan Coast is Elba Island, where Napoleon was confined.
Here Mr Pier Mario Meletti Cavallari has started of a very challenging endeavor: the production of red dessert wine from the indigenous Aleatico grape. The Aleatico Alea Ludenda of Tenuta delle Ripalte is a very juicy forest fruit wine with a lot of savoriness and Mediterranean spicy character. This is just the perfect match for Antica Dolceria Bonajuto Modica Chocolote.
Pierluigi Ruta is in the SE corner of Sicily and makes this ancient Atzec recipe. Once you try it it will be difficult to go back to your regular chocolate fix.
Let’s move north from Tuscany to for a pit-stop in Modena. Acetaia Giusti has been making Modena Balsamic Vinegar since 1605, they were practically the first family to begin this tradition.
Today they still make all sorts of Aceto Balsamico di Modena cooking the local grapes and aging the sweet condensed juice for many years in wooden casks to release a luscious, sticky and delicious vinegar which will help though out our road show in our various dinners.
From Modena I would make our way north to Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet, where one of the world most outstanding wines is made: Amarone Romano dal Forno. Luscious, dense black fruit, almost sweet, but then its almost salty. Rich and velvety with a never ending finish. If one can’t afford the luxury of this wine the Valpolicella Romano dal Forno is practically a stunning Amarone with a little lighter density.
Half an hour drive east on the way to Venice is Graziano, producer of one of Italy’s most famous White: Soave Classico. His Soave Classico Monte Grande is an oily, almond and white fruit mineral white with a lot of character and drink-ability.
Near Brescia, close to the Lake Iseo, is Italy’s most refined sparkling wine area: Franciacorta.
Here Vittorio Moretti has made one of his dream come true: producing a refined sparkling. Cuve Bellavista will be traveling with us as our welcome wine. Every evening will be opened with this splendid Franciacorta, made from Chardonnay grapes in a traditional sparkling wine method. That means that for at least three years the fermented grape juice will be in contact with the yeast to add complexity, texture, flavor and of course bubbles to the wine. As a result the Bellavista Cuve Franciacorta has a round palate enriched by a soft mousse which leads to a lime and white fruit aromatic caress and lingering refreshing savory finish. I look forward to begin the journey with Bellavista
Moving all the way to west near Turin, is one of the world most important wine regions: Langhe. Barolo is the king here, made with 100% Nebbiolo. The cuisine of the area is famous for its rare and expensive white truffle and Barolo is the best match for it. Luciano Sandrone Cannubi Boschis 2006 is one of the best crus that came out during my tastings last year: a very austere, structured, licorice and leather Barolo with a quinine element and a floral touch right at the finish. The entry level Valmaggiore Nebbiolo is one of the best way to get to know this wonderful Italian variety.
Last bu not least is Lessona, Proprieta Sperino. Produced by the young Luca de Marchi, this is an Italian style Pinot Noir. It is in fact Nebbiolo 100%, locally called Spanna and produced in the Northern part of Piedmont. It is like drinking a softer and sweeter style Barolo with a very savory, velvety contrast and plenty of super juicy red fruit.
And this year the U.S. Italian Wine Authority is going to be our partner to make sure that all those thirsty friends of ours can find the right way to get hold of our delicious wines: Italian Wine Merchants with Sergio Esposito and Karlsson making our project a step more concrete!!!
So this is Italy at Your Table 2011 US ROAD SHOW in a nutshell.
We will start from NYC on the 12th for ten days with an appointment also at the prestigious Metropolitan Museum. Then we will move to Washington DC for our annual Charity Event: The Martha’s Table Sutarday Sips and Sundays dinners. Here we will meet again with Alice Waters and Jose Andres and another 10 of America’s best chef to support a great cause: last year we’ve raised over $100.000.
Of course I am excited, thrilled and anxious to be on the road again in the US with the best Italian wines and foods alongside the best discerning gourmets on the planet. I’ll be visiting their homes, from the Big Apple, to Saint’Antonio, from Washington to San Francisco, from L.A. to Kansas City.
Who is behind all this? I couldn’t make this dream come true without Vanessa. Her patience, thoroughness and precision made a random idea a business model and a REAL project.
Benedetta is the logistic and co-ordination mind to make all this come into place: the ingredients for the Metropolitan, the invitations for the Napa Valley Reserve, the press events and above all the supporting of myself:) Good luck Bene!!! Also Carrie and Corinna from the office making all the necessary arrangements, Tour organization, translations and support…thanks to all of you.
Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Nerello Mascalese. And Pinot Noir?
by Filippo Bartolotta
After my first trip to Rioja I would have loved to metabolize all those amazing wines a little more slowly, maybe taking a break with my kids or with Vanessa. Instead I had to fly to Langhe for some Nebbiolo tasting. I then have been blessed with Vanessa’s kindness to bring herself and the children up to Langhe to Ivana.
So before going to Barolo I have time for some family sessions:) in my home town and… a bit of Sangiovese.
Milo has started his first week of school and Daphne is still eating like a ten years old!
Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Aglianico and Nerello Mascalese have something in common:
CHERRY, LICORICE, VIOLETS, LEATHERY EARTHINESS AND JUICY DRINKABILITY WITH AN ELEGANT TOUCH.
Pinot Noir could go with them, but I didn’t have time to go to Burgundy. Not this time. So I did it with Sangiovese. A quick stop at Isole e Olena with Paolo de Marchi and USA Ice-Skating Champions Kimberly Navarro and BrentÂ Bommentre. Cepparello is a 100% Sangiovese from the Chianti Classico area. Paolo selects only the best grapes which every year come from different vines as Sangiovese never gives the best crop from the same vines, says Paolo. Â Just to make the wine maker’s life easier. Cepparello 2006 is a pulpy, velvety, luscious and dense cherry driven wine. Cepparello 2007 is a more vertical wine with a little more structure and intensity though easier to please palates now. Â Paolo’s wines are fermented in big oak conic cask and he makes a point about personally supervising every fermentation. Then they go into french oak barrels in a fantastically humid and naturally cold cellar, allowing a very slow fining process.
Then it’s time to try another amazing Sangiovese. This time from a different valley, near Radda in Chianti. It’s Montevertine. Here lies another amazing site for Sangiovese. Here Martino Manetti makes a very mineral, red berry crush Montevertine. This year his 2007 is phenomenal. The more structure, austere and long lasting Pergole Torte 2007 instead is a 100% Sangiovese: classic wine as well. Both wines go for a long maturation process in small and big barrels.
Time to eat some fish at my home most favorite fish Trattoria: la Trattoria del Pesce in Bargino. Here GIanni has got a really large selection of great Champagne and Italian Fine Whites. People that would look after you any time. Great the Raw Fish plateaux, the house fish soup and the Spaghetti with clams and Bottarga served in a steaming frying pan!
After all this I get to Langhe where my dear friends Walter Fissore and Nadia Cogno are waiting for me to taste the great 2004 Barolo Elvio Cogno Riserva Vigna Elena a wine not to be missed, together with the Barolo Ravera 2006. Smashing wines with a lot of polish licorice and sour cherry leathery crispiness and a structure lengthy finish.
I have time to stop for lunch at l’Antico Borgo where my two guests open a Voerzio Cerequio 2006 and Giuseppe Rinaldi Cannubi San Lorenzo e Ravera 2006.
I know that with this one I would have a lot of people arguing how the heck can one like The “citric Beppe” and the “smoothy Voerzio”! Well you’ll be surprised to hear that I actually I can like them both. It only depends by the vintages and the care they had in the making. Most people think Rinaldi is the super traditionalist and Voerzio the super modernist. But the truth is a little more complicated. What I can tell you is that Rinaldi’s wines tend to be fresher, with a great energy and minerality and Voerzio instead goes for more density, fruit and pulp. If you were lucky enough to go for Roberto VoerzioÂ 1990 La Serra or Barolo Riserva,Â Vecchie Viti dei Capalot e delle Brunate 1998 then you will see how some of his wines retain that wonderful Nebbiolo lush, crunchy elegance that would make them go on forever.
I will try to go back on the discussion above. I had a very lovley chat about this and more philosophical wine issues with Nino Felicin in Monforte. He is one of the greatest and simplest wine Langhe man one can come across. The cuisine is just what anyone can dream of. I look forward to go back there again! Thank you Nino, Lana and Jim for the great wines.
This was a 1989 Barolo little context that I have set up for Lana and Jim.
Poderi Aldo Contenro Bricco Bussia Vigna Colonello 1989. This was in extraordinary conditions with a super classic red berry fruit and velvet earthy touch. Just delicious.
Elio Altare Vigna Arborina 1989. The oak was a little bit covering the underneath elegance of the wine stopping the tasting pleasure a bit.
Roberto Voerzio La Serra 1989. I preferred the 1990 as it was fresher and more solid. Mind you though that the ’90 was coming straight from Roberto’s cellar.
Still in Nebbiolo I am going to say hello to Marina Marcarini owner of Punset. Her Barbaresco Punset Campo Quadro 2007 came out as one of the best of the year and it is an organic (a seriously organic one) wine. I like Marina a lot, she is a very straight forward wine maker and her wines are getting better and better by the year.
And now ready? Steady? Gooooooooo! Train to the Amalfi Coast where I have spent threen days and three nights tasting Aglianico Taurasi away. My home base has been Hotel La Marmorata where not only you can enjoy this kind of view, but people here would solve any problem possible: they are just extremely friendly and professional.
Lemon Gardens on the Amalfi Coast.
Here one of my first and most important reasons of the trip was to go and taste some Mastroberardino’s Taurasi. Their 1968 has been one of the best wines I have ever had. I firstly drank that wine together with Aj and Gianfranco Soldera for lunch together with Soldera Case Basse 1981: what a sweet day that one was.
This time instead I was going to try some serious mozzarella at Vannulo near Paestum when I got a call from Chiara, Mastroberardino’s PR. She says that the Cavalier Mastroberardino would be delighted to taste some of the old wines with me. And…what do I reply?
In less then two hours I was sent a car an in one hour I am in Atriplada right in front of Mastroberardino Taurasi 1968, 1980, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005 and…the man himself. Cavaliere Antonio Mastroberardino is a small man with lovely smiley face. His hand is shaking a little bit but nonetheless is moves and speaks very rapidly Â and he is moving swiftly throughout the tasting. Also he doesn’t make it to pompous, but rather goes straight to the point. I love when people are together with you instead of talking about themselves. Â We taste the six wines and the ’68 shows the usual youthful character, just silky deliciousness. The ’80 is completely silent but the palate is even rounder then the ’68! I look forward to this wine in twenty more years, what a great surprise. This was the wine of the Earthquake and here the Cavaliere shows a touchy side. The ’97 is the earthier, meatier and more animal. I loved the ’99 better with more polished elements, bright fruit and velvet black peppers tannins. Great crisp 2005 and a super structured earthy grip. These wines are just like the man who made them: light, sweet, elegant with a romantic side immediately contrasted by a very pragmatic whiff! I take the ’68, ’80 and ’99 with me to see what happens in the evening. The wines got better and I was right: the 1980 opened up so much. It might get better then the mythical 1968! I mention the Cavaliere, that I had his wine with Soldera and he seems sincerely touched by this and so we call Gianfranco. The two of them talk flat for 15 min. They haven’t spoken in quite a while. I feel proud about this reunion:)
I gotta go and he says Ciao. I say Arrivederci. He says you must say Ciao to me please let’s drop the formality. He hugs me and I say Ciao Antonio. I can’t believe that I clicked so much with one of the greatest Italian wine makers!
Feudi di SanGregorio.
I got to Feudi after lunch. Emanuela smiles as we get in. She takes me and my wine club for a walk around the garden. It’s a glorious day I woke up and I went for a swim in the sea. The sky is blue and crisp. We started chatting and I told her I was on a old fine wine tasting quest started in Rioja with its Tempranillo, gone by the Sangiovese in Chianti Classico, the Nebbiolo in Barolo and Barbaresco and finishing with Nerello Mascalesse in Etna. Half an hour later I am kidnapped my the President of Feudi Antonio Capaldo.
Very much to the point also in this case. Most people think about souther Italy as a land of “dolce far niente” -sweet doing nothing-, but you gotta change your mind when you meet these kind of men. So let’s get to business.
Taurasi Feudi di SanGregorio 1993, 1997, 1999, 2005.
We star with the first vintage of Feudi. I must confess that I didn’t have many high expectations. Antonio opens the magnum and pours a glass. I am a happy man. The wine show a great Aglianico character, a sweet red fruit, licorice, rhubarb and balsamic touch. Tannins like velvet. The 1997 is a bit more austere, musk and mushroon type with some oak. The 1999 shows some more extractives and power frame, but I like the balance and the clean fruit. The 2005 a little more on the modern confection side. Feudi is changing path. The Fiano 2009 is a clear sigh of this with a more natural energetic zest. For the Taurasi one has to wait for the 2007! Thank you Antonio.
Quick now is time to catch a boat in Amalfi to go to Positano and then sinner at Capo d’Orso, one of the best Retaurant in Costiera with the ever caring Ferrara brothers.
How to spend a holiday in Costiera Amalfitana? This is a bit of the Costiera Amalfitana by car. It is great to see the little towns and the narrow street and the great light on the sea, but if you ever are going to make it here you must get on a boat along the coast or it is like you have never been here!
A taste of Aglianico del Vulture La Firma of Cantine del Notaio 2007.
Although the Aglianico form Taurasi is cultivated on a soil reach in volcanic ashes, the Vulture ones are actually on a Vulcano and they tend to emerge as bigger, denser, sweeter and more muscular types. This great 200 vintage is an example of that.
My window view from La Marmorata Hotel in Amalfi.
This is a remaining column of a little chapel near Tenuta di SanFrancesco. Not too far away from here the pre-philloxera over two hundred years vineyard of Tintore grape are still yielding some great fruit. As a result one of the label of Tenuta di SanFrancesco is for me the most striking result of this small estate: “Ã¨ iss” Tintore Pre-phillossera Vigna Paradiso 2007. Very earthy, savory wine with well extracted tannins, great drinkability and very classic mediterranean herbs elegance. The other Red -a classic Tramonti Doc with Aglianico, Tintore and Piedirosso- is a riper, fruitier and easier to drink wine with a lovely red fruit finish.
Gaetano Bove with the pre-phillossera vines.
The Whites -made of Falanghina, Biancolella and Pepella grapes- are very light, zesty with a crispy citrus fruit character.
Eva, Raffaella and Angela the three wonderful cooks.Â
After a great lunch in the cellar we move to Pompei.
Zebra Crossing in Pompei
The Vesuvio seen from Pompei. Should you ever visit Pompei -I think anyone should- you’d better do it with a fun and knowledgeable guide. I am afraid to say that the maintenance of one of the world greatest archeological site isn’t the best one. Quite the opposite. Most remaining frescos are barely covered with bit of metal, straigh dogs browse around -I haven’t seen a straigh dog in Italy in twenty years!!!- and there is practically no guards around. Â Still though if you go with someone who can tell you what happen here, it can become a reason to travel here.
And before catching the boat to Catania I must have a slice of Pizza “Da Michele”. Here is where Julia Roberts had her slice during “Eat, pray, love?”. I have had Pizza here throughout the years. It is very good, but be prepared for a not very welcoming service. People do not seem very happy to have you there. Every once in a while there are some funny jokes going among them, but in general terms there’s a little bit of that cuttle treatment feeling where guests are pushed and not listened to. I am sure if you go there with Julia Roberts they’ll be pretty good to anyone though. I must confess that the Pizza as well isn’t really the best in town s most say. Il Pizzaiuolo del Presidente for instance makes Pizza with a little more tender care and irresistible moisture. Â Anyway it’s a pity about the bad attitude da Michele as Napolitan Pizza is one of mankind greatest and happiest inventions. Off we go on a boat to Catania with our tummies filled.
Overnight we cross the channel of Messina and we are in Catania. Our main destination would have being Nerello Mascalese in the Mount Etna, but I had to stop at my uncle’s favorite Pasticceria for a -Coffee Ice Crush- Granita al caffÃ¨ and brioche breakfast. It is like something in between a smoothy and an ice coffee. The soft/bouncy/warm brioche collapses with the ice cold mouse, the coffee gives you a kick and the cream rounds the edges off: pure pleasure.
Ciro Biondi cellar is in a great location near Sant’Alfio on the Mount Etna. One could see the Volcano and the see at the same time. That is if the weather is good; not today it is more like being in Langhe tasting Nebbiolos:)
We start with the grape must of two different vineyards of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio. Already a great deal of difference with the M.I. vineyard showing way more earthy power then the Outis.
We then move to Ciro’s Palmento – the ancient Sicilian wine cellar. The ancient Palmenti were cellar working by gravity. Fruit arrived, people stomped them dancing, the free run juice was going down and the skins then removed. Here we have a very frugal lunch to match Biond’s wines while Ciro’s wife, Staphanie is helping with the presentation. The White -a blend of bush trained Carricante, Minnella, Malvasia, Catarrati, Moscatello- is a rustic leafy and almost tannic wine with a lot of character. Then we go for a Etna Rosso Outis 2007 with a lot of tannic structure a mushrooms and carrub fruit. Â I loved the Etna Rosso M.I. 2008 better. The fruit is more focused, the nose is more Burgundian with a peppery/barnyard hint and the palate packed with energy and sapid twist to allow the wine baskets full of drinkability.
I was about to rap this long post up till I tasted the Cos Pythos Frappato 2009. It’s barnyard, savory, forrest fruit minerality outs the wine close to our Temprannillo, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Aglianico, Nerello Mascalese similarities. When these varieties are made without fiddling Â too heavy an oenological hand they release some outstanding common factors: great acidity, minerality, savoriness, red berry crush fruit, some earthiness and licorice and a floral&black pepper touch. The palate is crunchy with structured but also not obstructive tannins and aging potential. Of course this result can be achieved with completely different wine making techniques, but always with very impressive result. Cos in Acata South East Sicily has being using Spanish Amphorae -rich in silex- to ferment and macerate their wines for over 6 months. The Amphorae well used are a very interesting method which allow natural stabilization of the wine and great enzymatic complexity.