Posts Tagged ‘Italy’

The origin of French wine.

The origin of French wine.

A new study finds evidence that ancient Gauls began wine production in 425 B.C. in the Languedoc

Dom Pérignon, Pétrus, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti—the roots of these iconic wines and all of French wine culture may lie in a simple stone press, according to new scientific research. Uncovered in the Mediterranean town of Lattes, just south of Montpelier, the roughly 2,400-year-old artifact was originally identified by archaeologists as an olive-oil press. But a new round of chemical and archaeological analysis now identifies the press as the earliest evidence of wine production in France.

The analysis, headed by Patrick McGovern, the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and reported in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses an array of evidence to not only hypothesize when the French started making wine, but who originally taught them how to do it.

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French wine industry rooted in Italy!

French wine industry has Italian roots!

The earliest evidence of wine in France suggests that it came from Italy, and that it was mixed with basil, thyme and other herbs, according to new research.

This early wine may have been used as medicine, and likely was imbibed by the wealthy and powerful before eventually becoming a popular beverage enjoyed by the masses, researchers said.

The artefacts found at the French port site of Lattara, near the southern city of Montpellier, suggest that winemaking took root in France as early as 500 BC, as a result of libations and traditions introduced by the ancient Etruscans in what is now Italy.

The analysis in the US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is based on ancient wine containers and a limestone press brought by seafaring Etruscan travellers.

“France’s rise to world prominence in the wine culture has been well documented,” said lead author Patrick McGovern, director of the bimolecular archaeology laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

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Tuscany's Golden Coast.

Tuscany’s Golden Coast.

 

Now that the land rush is subsiding, the true worth of the region’s vineyards is being reflected in spectacular wines.

 

Map of the area.

Map of the area.

The Viale dei Cipressi offers an unforgettable journey to those who travel down its path. At approximately three miles in length—with 2,000 columnar trees on either side of the gently undulating avenue—it’s said to be the longest cypress-lined road in the world.

The road cuts a route across coastal Tuscany, from the shimmering Tyrrhenian Sea to hilly brush, slicing through some of the world’s most prized vineyards along the way. The strada provinciale starts at the octagonal San Guido chapel at the shore and finishes inland, at the gates of the medieval Castello di Bolgheri.

The Viale dei Cipressi represents a cultural, historical and environmental continuum by which the entire area is measured. But in spiritual terms, this glorious passageway leads to the Shangri-La of Italian wine.
Three-quarters up the Viale dei Cipressi on the right is the 42-acre vineyard of Sassicaia, named after the many stones (sassi in Italian) that pepper its gravelly clay soils. This vineyard lends its name to the wine that fulfills the enormity of Italy’s enological promise.

“We are all children of Sassicaia,” says vintner Michele Satta, whose eponymous estate produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sangiovese. “It is the inspiration for all Italian wine past, present and future.”

That inspiration drives the exciting work underway in coastal Tuscany. Previously known as the birthplace of super Tuscans—a passé catch-all name for iconic wines made outside obsolete Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) regulations—Tuscany’s coast now bustles with a new generation of pioneering vintners.

From concept wines without roots (like the nebulous super Tuscan category), the region’s vintners now pursue wines in tune with their geographic origins comparable to the greatest appellations of Tuscany: Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

The emphasis has clearly swung in favor of territory, territory, territory.

The 120-mile coastline that extends from the port city of Livorno to the postcard-perfect hilltop town of Capalbio is home to six wine regions, plus the island of Elba. Each possesses unique climatic and geologic conditions, grape varieties and individual wines.

 

Bolgheri
Ribot, according to many, was the greatest racehorse of all time. Undefeated in 16 races throughout the mid 1950s, the British-bred, Italian-trained “horse of the century” was owned by Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, of the fabled Marchesi Incisa family.

Banking on more successes, Mario created Cabernet Sauvignon-based Sassicaia in 1968 (the first commercially released vintage) in what started as a playfully competitive nudge at Bordeaux.

Since then, Bolgheri has undergone radical change. Despite the continued success of Sassicaia, the region is practically a newborn.

In 1985, there were just six producers that—like Ribot—raced to success as individual brands. Only when producers embraced the concept of territory, united behind a single Bolgheri identity, did the region hit its winning stride.

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Red wine is good for you!

A natural ingredient found in red wine, resveratrol, can help fight off diseases associated with age, a new study shows.
Resveratrol, found in the skin of grapes, has long been touted for its anti-ageing properties.
Researchers are studying this natural compound to help them design better anti-aging drugs.
They think it works by increasing the activity of sirtuins, a family of proteins found throughout the body, which are believed to combat diseases related to getting older, like type 2 diabetes, cancer or Alzheimer’s. Specifically, resveratrol increases the activity of SIRT1, which acts to make our mitochondria — the cell part that turns food into energy in our cells — more efficient, the study says.
The direct link between resveratrol and the SIRT1 protein has been made before, both by the lead author of this latest paper, Harvard genetics professor David Sinclair, and others.
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Ouch!

 

Unlike most other wine categories, Champagne sales were not sufficiently buoyed by surging demand from Asia and North America to compensate for declining shipments to Europe in 2012. A large share of consignments are Europe-bound and because of this, the economic crisis hit the region with a full frontal attack.

 

According to Champagne marketing board CIVC, sales of Champagne for the first eleven months of 2012 were down 3.8 percent on the previous year. The fall is primarily due to a drop in sales in France – the region’s largest market – where they declined by 5.2 percent to 144.35 million bottles, though also to falling volumes in Europe. Moving annual totals within Europe dropped by 8.3 percent due to markets such as the United Kingdom and Germany. However, Thibaut Le Mailloux, spokesman for the marketing board, said the figures should be put into perspective: “the downturn comes on the back of two years of strong growth that followed the 2008-2009 financial crisis”.

Fortunately, although many of the region’s sales outlets are in Europe, non-EU countries came to the rescue with a rise of 3.5 percent in sales. The Chinese market may well be geared to red wines, the first half of 2012 saw it reach a turning point with China entering the top 10 export destinations for Champagne for the first time ever. Sales surged by almost 100 percent to 947,713 bottles over the half-year. Fellow Asian market Japan also rose significantly (+26 percent) to over 4.5 million bottles.

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Dante Alighieri.

Dante Alighieri.

 

A winemaking descendant of the poet Dante Alighieri is urging the local government of Veneto to tighten planning laws to protect Valpolicella from urban sprawl.

Count Pieralvise Serego Alighieri, the owner of Serego Alighieri, has said that the combination of lax planning regulations and growing population is putting the countryside at risk.

Along with other producers and environmentalists, he has presented the government with an appeal that demands an immediate freeze on the building of all homes, factories and industrial estates in the area around Valpolicella.

 

 

The appeal adds that as the population of the valley outside Verona has doubled in the past 25 years to over 70,000, the beauty of the countryside is at risk.
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Deep discounting over the Christmas period in the UK and France has led to Champagne volume growth in the major multiples but also one bankrupt supplier.

Retailers in Champagne’s two largest markets employed aggressive price cutting tactics to entice shoppers during December, while suppliers of inexpensive supermarket labels struggled to make money as they attempted to absorb the increasing cost of grapes.

The latest figures to be released in the UK show that supermarket chain Asda achieved a 25% increase in Champagne sales over December from an aggressive deal on its exclusive label Pierre Darcys.

Having slashed its price from £23.98 to just below £10 a bottle, the supermarket reported sales of almost 250,000 bottles in a single week in the run up to New Year’s Eve.
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Women who drink red wine enjoy better sex lives, an Italian university study has suggested

Women who drink red wine enjoy better sex lives, an Italian university study has suggested

Women who drink red wine enjoy better sex lives, a study from the University of Florence in Italy has suggested.

A study among Tuscan women discovered that one or two glasses a day could lead to a more fulfilling life in the bedroom.

Experts from the university questioned 800 women between 18 and 50 Santa Maria Annunziata Hospital about their sexual satisfaction.

Using the Female Sexual Function Index – which is used by doctors to assess women and sexual health – it emerged that drinkers scored higher than teetotallers.
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A good reason to celebrate!

Italy, number one!

Prosecco emerged as the wine favourite among shoppers in the UK at Christmas, with soaring sales of the Italian sparkler reported by Majestic, Waitrose and Tesco.

Tesco said sales of Prosecco in 2012 were likely to be double those in 2011, while Waitrose wine buying manager Ken Mackay reported it as ‘the biggest seller by far’ in a 23% sales surge for sparkling wine over the Christmas period.

Majestic chief executive Steve Lewis told Decanter.com that sales of Prosecco had soared by 55% by value in the last seven weeks of 2012, while Champagne sales were flat and overall sparkling wine sales rose 22%.

Majestic reported overall sales up 5.1% over the same period, with like-for-like sales rising 1.1% – broadly in line with the company’s performance over the rest of the year to date.
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Sassicaia

 

The table wine that put Tuscan cabernet sauvignon on the map is now one of the most sought-after Italian reds in the world. Kerin O’Keefe reports.

Sassicaia is the Italian wine world’s rock star, and not just because of the unusual rocky soils where the wine’s grapes are cultivated. A rebel when it was first released in 1971, Sassicaia – like the defiant rock musicians of the same period – shook up the status quo and spawned generations of imitators.

It can also claim the title of Original Super Tuscan as it was the first of Tuscany’s renegade wines to break with the antiquated rules that governed Italian winemaking in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Although no longer a revolutionary, Sassicaia is one of Italy’s most iconic and seductive wines.

Sassicaia was the brainchild of Marchese Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, who planted cabernet sauvignon at his Tenuta San Guido estate in Bolgheri in 1944, back when this strip of Tuscan coast – known as the Maremma – was a mosquito-infested backwater with no tradition of quality winemaking.

According to Mario’s son Nicolò, who has run the property since his father died in 1983, “my father loved fine Bordeaux and decided to try his hand at making red wine. He chose the first and subsequent vineyards not only for the right sun exposure and altitude, but above all for their rocky soils – unique in Bolgheri and Italy but similar to the gravel found in Graves.”

Sassicaia, a derivative of “sassi” – Italian for rocks or stones – owes its catchy name to this uncommon soil. Nicolò also points out that the original cabernet sauvignon his father planted in the 1940’s was not imported from Château Lafite, as legend often states. Rather, it hailed from 50-year-old vine cuttings cultivated on a friend’s estate near Pisa, which have long since been pulled up.
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