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Tuscany in the Fall

Posted by gen On November - 8 - 2013

Tuscany in the Fall- By Simona Piccinelli, Italy Specialist

Tuscany is the ideal destination for a gourmet wine tasting getaway in the autumn! Imagine freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil on bruschetta; exquisite white truffles  shaved over handmade pasta; aromatic porcini mushrooms and roast chestnuts; pumpkin and sage stuffed pasta; ripe figs wrapped in prosciutto;  manicured olive groves and vineyards with flaming red and orange leaves; velvety red wines on a chilly, sunny afternoon, medieval castles and stone villas …. this is Tuscany in the Fall.

There are few places on earth so idyllic and beautiful which tantalize all the senses like La Toscana

Poderi di Luigi Einaudi

We were lucky to attend Buy Tuscany a few weeks ago and visit some of our favorite suppliers to touch base and check the state of the wear and tear. Things were looking great! We are happy to recommend the following hand selected hotels for your next vacation in Tuscany, ones that have worked very well this last season and where you are sure to have a fabulous time- buon viaggio!

Relais Borgo San Felice

Immersed in the sublime Chianti wine country, surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, this Relais & Chateaux is actually an entire small hamlet. It´s got movie set narrow streets, a Romanesque church and medieval buildings which house 46 elegant rooms and suites. Being a historic structure there is no elevator but there are 5 rooms on the ground floor for those who can´t do stairs. After a late breakfast, the perfect relaxed day can start with a visit to the winery onsite, followed by an excellent Tuscan lunch at Poggio Rosso, where 2 Michelin starred chef Francesco Bracali prepares dishes based on local culinary traditions with his hint of personal creativity. Next season they will be offering exciting new cooking classes.

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Castello di Casole

Recently opened after a long and careful restoration by Timbers Resorts, this wonderful huge estate welcomes you with a cypress-lined lane that leads to the elegant main courtyard of the castle that dates back to the year 998. In the main area and building the hotel offers 41 suites, mixing Tuscan and contemporary styles. There are also some villas and farmhouses scattered throughout the extensive estate (available also for sale).
Not far from the hotel, in cooperation with winemaker Paolo Caciorgna, Castello di Casole produces 2 wines: Dodici and ‘C’, both private-label signature wines, which are available only to owners and guests. Very exclusive.

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Castel Monastero

Located in one of the most beautiful areas of the Chianti Classico wine region, the hotel is a respectfully restored medieval village. The buildings, distributed in different areas of the estate, are divided into “contrade” and house 74 luxury rooms and suites. While the village is in classic Tuscan style, the rooms have a chic, modern design which retains a warm and intimate atmosphere.  The Gourmet Highlight is celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay´s restaurant, Contrada.

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Villa Armena

A stunning late Renaissance villa made with red brick, surrounded by gentle hills (this is quintessential Tuscan countryside), dotted with oak trees, wheat fields and cypresses: this is Villa Armena. Very intimate and cozy, it is owned and run by Edoardo and Elena (together with newborn Leo and bulldog Franco), a sweet and professional couple that really make you feel at home, as if you were old friends. After a day of  tasting Brunello di Montalcino or a visit to the white truffle fair in nearby San Giovanni d’Asso village, this is a great place to relax and enjoy the peace of Tuscan countryside. Dine in at restaurant Sorbo Allegro, where you will be be pampered by chef Carlo Valeri, who recently won the  prestigious Gualtiero Marchesi award. Recommended!!

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Borgo Scopeto

Feel like you are a galaxy away from the trials and tribulations of modern life, yet in reality you are onlya short distance from Siena-  Borgo Scopeto is a classic Tuscan “borgo”.  Once home to the famous Sozzini dynasty, it is now a beautifully restored and elegant hotel- a tasteful blend of traditional and contemporary styles. Borgo Scopeto is also an agricultural  estate, producing wine and extra virgin olive oil, that you can sample at their fancy La Tinaia restaurant or directly at the winery, not far from the relais. Dreamy!

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Il Borgo Castello Banfi

If you’ve always dreamed about being a prince or princess  then this is the right place for you! Owned by world famous Banfi winery, it is housed in a real castle in the ethereal Montalcino countryside and offers 14 fantastic rooms and suites furnished and decorated by Federico Forquet, with exclusive accessories. You can dine in the classic Tuscan restaurant in the medieval castle, sampling traditional dishes like pinci (which is called “pici” in the rest of the region of Siena). This is a thick, hand-rolled pasta, that you can learn to make during a fun and interesting cooking class on site.

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Il Falconiere

The ultimate Under the Tuscan Sun experience. Experience true Tuscan living at this welcoming resort, with  touch of bohemia. The warm, affectionate  Baracchi family are great characters. Silvia will spoil your palate at the restaurant and during her enlightening and amusing cooking classes (you can even learn how to make your own cheese!), Riccardo will charm you with tails about falconry and, together with his son Benedetto, will introduce you to his wines. Add a small but complete spa (with wine therapy and olive oil treatments), not to mention the opportunity to meet falcon Lilla … what else could you look for?

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We get so many requests for romantic trips, from honeymoons to anniversaries, babymoons to Valentine’s Day trips, so we composed some fun ideas in Italy (is there anywhere more romantic?) for our special guests:
1. For lovers of the romanticism  period and particularly of Lord Byron, what could be better than his suite at Punta Chiappa in Camogli with a private dinner from the tower where he wrote his poems? Sublime views from the special Byron´table…

stella maris Byrons table

2. For Shakespeare romantics, a plush room in gorgeous Verona facing Juliet’s balcony is all you’ve ever asked for…

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3. For astronomers and star crossed lovers,  the cabriolet suite in the lovely Franciacorta winemaking countryside is a dream

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4. Want to cross paths with movie stars and rock stars, but avoid the paparazzi – we suggest an off the beaten track location like Basilicata where Francis Ford Coppola has opened a fab little palazzo hotel…

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5. If Classic is your style, then Venice is your destination and a terrace on the Grand Canal is THE luxury touch to make the experience special and memory making…

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6. For the lucky ones who have already found their prince charming, stay in a real castle in Tuscany!

banfi
7. For  lovers of the Dolce Vita,  the jet set atmosphere in Capri with its amazing food and nightlife extravaganza calls…

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8. … and finally, for those who are down to earth, but still dreamers  at heart, a private candelit dinner overlooking the sea, in stunning Taormina, Sicily is our suggestion…

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Let us plan the romantic vacation of a lifetime for you, drop us a line!

Jewish Heritage in Italy and Italian Kosher Wine

Posted by gen On October - 25 - 2012

Italy has a unique place amongst European nations in Jewish history. The legacy of Jewish culture in Italy spans over two thousand years – from the early recorded Roman period to today. The country contains some of the oldest communities of Jewish citizens in Europe – over the centuries, Jewish communities in Italy have absorbed and welcomed Jewish groups expelled from Spain and Portugal, Eastern Europe, France and Germany.

Their presence has contributed significantly to Italy’s development throughout the ages, with Jewish culture playing an important social and economic role throughout Italy’s turbulent history, from the Dark-ages to fascism in the 20th century.

History records that the first Jewish settlers arrived in southern-Italy from Judea (part of modern day Israel) long before Christianity was established as the official religion of the Roman empire. In the early years of the Roman Republic a thriving Jewish community lived in Rome with at least 10 synagogues to worship. Then, in 160 B.C. the Jewish leader Simon Maccabeus sent an embassy to Rome to strengthen the alliance with the Romans against the Syrians. The ambassadors received a warm welcome from the Roman Senate and from the existing Jewish community in Rome at the time. Although, the treatment of the Jews in Rome did fluctuate, they were allowed to live and worship, relatively free from harassment until Christianity was established as the official religion of the Roman empire by Constantine I in 313 AD.

After that historic moment the position of Jews in Italy and throughout the empire declined rapidly. They were oppressed considerably until after the fall of the Roman empire, after which the dark ages yielded some respite for Rome’s, and indeed Italy’s Jewish communities. During the Dark Ages they were pockets of Jews in Rome, Milan, Genoa, Palermo and Messina in Sicily. When Milan came under the control of the Lombards, Jews were left to live in peace in the territories under their rule. Although the Lombard families embraced Catholicism, Jews were not persecuted and Pope Gregory I showed them respect and consideration. Although anti-Semitism began increasing throughout Europe from the 8th century, leading to great migrations of Jews from other European nations to Italy, Italian Jews enjoyed  comparably high standards of living.

In the Middle Ages, Rome’s Jews started to prosper as permission to trade and run businesses was given them. The majority of Rome’s Jews lived in the Trastevere neighborhood during this period, a district found on the west bank of the river Tiber, south of Vatican City. Despite the increasing anti-Semitism from the Church at this time,  towns such as Venice, Florence, and Genoa realized that their commercial interests were of more importance than politics of the Church and accordingly the Jews found their condition better than ever before.

Sadly this prosperity for Italy’s Jewish population would not last, by the early 16th century the Catholic church was fighting rising Protestantism and turned its attention to anything deemed a “heresy” or simply not contrary to the Catholic faith, including Judaism. In 1516,  the first ghetto was established in Venice and Jews were forced to live there, under harsh conditions. Poverty was rife and the resident Jewish community was striped of most of their rights and privileges.

Then, in 1555, Pope Paul IV established a ghetto in Trastevere,  forcibly moving all of Rome’s Jews into a cramped space on a few acres of land. They could not own property or run businesses and conditions were dire, many died of disease and starvation. Similar ghettos were erected around Italy and conditions didn’t improve dramatically until the 19th century. In 1848, after Napoleon had successfully taken and occupied Rome, the ghetto walls were torn down and the inhabits were allowed to move freely in the city.

After the Italian unification in 1870, Jews across Italy were granted full rights as Italian citizens. However in the 20th century, the rise of fascism in western Europe spelled dark times for Italy’s Jewish population, although they did not suffer as much as the German and Polish Jews. The Italian leader Mussolini instituted many anti-semitic laws as he allied himself to Hitler. The situation worsened after Mussolini was deposed, as the Nazis occupied southern Italy late in the second world war, and began instigating measures to deport the countries population to concentration camps. However, they met with resistance in many cities – in the Umbrian town of Assisi, Father Rufino Niccacci, sheltered 300 Jews during the war and gave them new identities and lives. Overall over 7,000 Jews became victims of the Holocaust.

Today, the Jewish population in Italy has recovered from the darkness of the mid 20th century and have left an incredible cultural mark on Italy’s towns and cities. Although the current community is relatively small, an estimate of around 45,000 – they are most definitely an important part of the Italian social landscape. The ghettos of Rome and Venice, the Jewish museum and synagogues all attract many visitors each year.

We start our tour with the birthplace of the Jewish arrival in Italy – Rome. The eternal city has over 22 centuries of Jewish heritage, which in addition to the classic sites of Rome – the Vatican, the colosseum, add up to an incredibly varied and almost overwhelming cultural experience. Although after the fall of the Roman Empire, Rome became the center of the Christian world, the Jewish community played an important role in Rome’s history. The oldest synagogue in Rome and possibly Italy, can still be visited. Then there is the ghetto, the largest in Italy and the Ponte Fabricio, not to mention the wealth of Jewish shops, kosher restaurants and guest-houses.

I’d suggest starting your Roman tour on on the east bank of the rive Tiber, near the Isola Tiberina (Island in the Tiber). This district, known as Trastevere houses the majority of Rome’s Jewish cultural attractions, including the synagogue and of course, the ghetto, constructed in the 16th century by Pope Paul IV. Although when Italy was unified in 1870 the ghetto was largely demolished, some of the streets remain as they were and make for a fascinating viewing, a leisurely stroll is the best way to sample Rome’s Jewish ghetto. Take a walk down Via del Portico d’Ottavia, the main through ware of the ghetto and notice kosher restaurants proudly serving carciofi (artichokes, a Jewish Roman specialism) and shops of fine, locally produced Judaica.  On Via San Ambrogio, there is also a small art gallery, promoting the works of young Israeli artists, well worth a detour. If you get peckish then check out the Jewish bakery on Piazza delle Cinque Scole.

You have already seen many wonders of the Jewish legacy, but before you leave make sure to visit the “Synagogue of Emancipation”, built after the ghetto was dismantled and completed in 1904. It is beautiful! Highlights include the impressive dome, painted with the colours of the rainbow and the museum. It contains historically significant artifacts, many of which were created by some of the finest artists at the time, as Jews were not allowed to be craftsman during the 16th-17th century.

A tour of Jewish Italy could continue with Venice, beautiful in its own right, Venice can lay claim to having the oldest Jewish ghetto in Europe and a wealth of Jewish historical legacies. By the 12th century, Venice was an independent city-state, and through its control of the spice and silk trade from the East, became one of he riches trading nations in Europe, wealth that the Jewish business community helped to generated. Step back in time as you visit the ‘Scole’ or Synagogues of the Venetian ghetto that were constructed in the mid 17th century, each representing a different ethnic group that settled there. Today, the Ghetto is still the focal point for Venice’s Jewish community and contains several welcoming guest houses and kosher restaurants. Another highlight is the Renato Maestro Library, founded in 1981 it contains a wealth of resources on Judaism and it a must see for any Jewish visitor. Not to mention The Jewish Museum of Venice, founded in 1953 which gives visitors a fantastic insight into the Jewish communities in Venice over the centuries; how they have evolved and contributed to the great renown of this magical city.

Copyright Mario Camerini www.mariocamerini.it

The eager visitor, after marveling at the wonders of Venice should head to the small town of Ferrara, one of Emilia-Romagna’s greatest walled towns. It has a special significance in the region, as there has been a continuous Jewish presence from the Middle Ages to today. Jews were welcomed in the 15th century by the Duke of Ercole I d’Este and have left an impressive cultural legacy. There are three synagogues, contained within Ferrara’s ghetto, which were constructed in 1627 and was the obvious focal point of Jewish life in the town. There is also a wonderful Jewish museum, which although fairly small, houses many artifacts and exhibitions on Jewish culture through the ages. Access to the synagogue cannot be gained from the museum.

After Ferrara head for Bologna, capital of Emilia-Romagna and one of Italy’s most prosperous cities. Bologna has an impressive cultural heritage that includes a rich Jewish legacy that dates back to the Middle Ages. In the mid 14th century the Jewish population was enclosed in a ghetto by the authorities, but by the end of the 14th century they owned houses in all parts of Bologna and ran thriving businesses. Another example of how the importance of Jewish community to the commercial success of a city superseded the religious dogma of the time.

Well worth a look is the restored ghetto, containing craft shops with Jewish prints and other hints of new life in the old Jewish neighborhood. Restaurants and cafes abound, if you need a well earned pitstop! The only synagogue in the Bologna ghetto is another big draw for visitors, as is the recently opened (1999) Jewish Museum. It celebrates with colourful art and displays the history of Jewish community in Bologna and Italy, there is also a well stocked book and kosher store.

Of course no visit to Italy is complete without a tour of Tuscany. Our next port of call is Florence, a monument to the Renaissance, the artistic and cultural reawakening of the 15th century. During this time Florence was the cultural and intellectual heart of Europe, its cosmopolitan atmosphere and wealthy patrons, such as the Medici, providing the impetus for a period of unparallelled cultural and artistic growth. The early Medici families were good friends of the Jewish community, so there are plenty of fascinating monuments and areas to explore in Florence after you have seen the Uffizi Museum and the Duomo.

A Jewish tour of Florence must start with the imposing Emancipation-era temple and the Jewish ghetto. Built in 1571 by the Cosimo de Medici, most, but not all of Florence’s Jewish population were moved into the ghetto in the 16th century. However, Jews in the ghetto had some freedoms and could build synagogues, schools and other public buildings as they saw fit. The spectacular, Moorish style synagogue in Florence is considered to be one of the finest in Europe. It was opened in 1882, the Moorish facade was based on the designs of the Byzantine cathedral in Constantinople. Jewish presence in Florence over the ages can also be witnessed first-hand in the two Jewish cemeteries (only open the first Sunday of every month) and an excellent Jewish museum and library.

The above is merely a snapshot of some of the main attractions of the Jewish legacy in Italy. However, there is another important aspect to this Italian discussion, which must not be omitted and that is kosher wine. This can be produced from any grape or Italian wine region, but crucially the wine must of course be produced according to Jewish dietary law, know as Kashrut.

For a wine to be certified kosher, a Sabbath-observant Jew must have been involved in the entire wine making process and any ingredient used, must be kosher. Although this was not formerly the case, today many famous Italian appellations and winemakers are making kosher wines, much of it exported as Italy has such a small Jewish population. Some to look out for include: Terra Di Seta Chianti, Chianti Classico, Tuscany; Rosh Aglianico, Campania; Batasiolo Barolo, Piedmont; Araldica Pinot Grigio, Piedmont; Fattoria Scopone Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany.

Nitra’e bekarov!

Merano Wine Festival 2010- “the” wine event of the season for Italian wine lovers

By Ivano Martignetti

Wine Festival Italy

The most elegant and exclusive wine event in Italy is just around the corner, from the 5th to the 8th of November, the Merano Wine Festival.  The magnificent Kurhaus is an incredibly elegant venue for the event and exclusive as not all producer are eligible to participate.  Indeed producers are required to send their samples to the examining commission of the MWF and if their wines receive a score of more than 86/100 they can participate, with no more than 3 wines for each winery.

The actual score is not available to the public, to allow everyone to have their own idea without being influenced by the evaluation of the expert examiners, but the highest level of quality is guaranteed by the work done months before the beginning of the event.

This year 1.317 top quality wines will be presented in Merano, with 370 Italian producers, 35 top producers of the “Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux”, 100 producers from the best wine regions in the world. Moreover, the Gourmet Arena will host food artisans’ stalls, artisanal breweries, grappa and distillates. The wine tourism aficionados this year in Merano will receive a treat, the presentation of exceptional wine resorts.

Italy wine festival
To prepare for this major wine event, we suggest trying  some of the Alto Adige/Süd Tirol wines that you’ll be able to taste during the Merano Wine Festival and in the restaurants of the area, should you decide to stay in Merano longer than the duration of the event.

Italy wine festival

Our top wine picks:

·    Baron de Pauli, “Arzio”, Cabernet-Merlot.
·    Elena Walch, “Blauburgunder” Alto Adige DOC 2008, Pinot Noir 100%.
·    Nals Margreid, “Baron Salvadori Gewürztraminer”, Gewürztraminer 100%
·    Kloster Neustift, “Südtiroler Lagrein Mariaheim”, Lagrein 100%.

Hope to see you there!

Info on the Merano Wine Festival here.

Notes from last year´s Merano event here.

While in the region, we can organize an exclusive day (or longer tour)  of wine touring with driver, Mercedes and private visits to top estates in Northern Italy. Contact us for more info.

Italy wine festival

Val d’ Orcia- Tuscany at its most romantic

Posted by gen On March - 7 - 2010

The Val d ‘ Orcia, featured today in the NY Times, is quintessential Tuscany and utterly romantic.  Expect dreamy hills studded with cypress trees and ancient farmhouses; a smattering of gorgeous art cities and medieval towns in easy reach (Siena, Pienza, San Quirico D’ Orcia, Montepulciano, Montalcino); world class wine country (Brunello, anyone?); amazing cheese country (this is the land of Pecorino) and supremely atmospheric drives.

If you have not yet had the opportunity to visit this breathtaking region yet, then we cannot recommend it enough! This is also THE destination for special occasions- anniversaries, honeymoons, wedding proposals, family reunions…

Tuscany

A quick guide to the Val d’ Orcia for food and wine lovers:

WHEN TO GO: Autumn is the ultimate time to visit for wine lovers as the vineyards are at their most beautiful, the wineries have a real buzz, the weather is generally still sunny but deliciously fresh (perfect for the region´s rich red warming wines). Winter is very cold but a great time to enjoy the food and captivating landscapes without the stifling summer crowds. Spring is gorgeous.

WHERE TO STAY: You can use a few different places as bases, either in town or countryside. We love the Grand Hotel Continental in Siena for old world charm, the luxury Il Borgo at Castello Banfi (also a wine estate, near Montalcino) and the darling little Palazzo del Capitano in the delicious hamlet of San Quirico d’ Orcia.

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WHAT TO DO: Wine tasting is obviously a big pull and many wineries open to the general public like Banfi, Barbi and Poggio Antico (which also has a great restaurant) in Montalcino.  For visiting  cult wineries (like Casanova di Neri) and more special visits, book a luxury private wine tour in Montalcino or lesser known Montepulciano. The artistic treasures in the towns of Siena and Pienza are also a “must”. Hiring a local art guide is a fantastic way to discover the local anecdotes and secret corners too.  Renting a villa for a week in Val d´Orcia and spending quiet days cooking, shopping at local markets, wine tasting and relaxing is also an unforgettable way to enjoy the region to the fullest.

WHAT TO BUY: Rare Brunello, artisan cheeses, wild boar cured ham (prosciutto di cinghiale), Terracotta in Siena: and then fine products from other parts of Tuscany (olive oil from Lucca, hand made masks from Florence, antiques and gold from the countless markets, etc).

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More info:

Italy travel tips

Wineries in Tuscany

Terroir 2009 – Merano Wine & Culinaria Award

Posted by gen On December - 14 - 2009

Merano Wine & Culinaria Award

by Simona Piccinelli, Italian wine specialist

For the very first time, Mr Helmut Köcher -  President of  Gourmet International – presented the “Terroir 2009″ award during the 18th edition of the International Wine Festival & Culinaria in Merano, Italy.
Merano wine and culinaria awards

The prize rewards the wines that best express the connection with their terroir.

17 wines  were granted the Terroir 2009 – Merano Wine & Culinaria Award:

1.  Zymè, Amarone della Valpolicella 2003
2. Wiengut J. Hofstätter, Kolbenhof Gewürztraminer 2008
3. Dorigo, Picolit 2007

4.  Ca’ del Bosco Vintage Brut  2005
Merano Wine & Culinaria Award 5. Adami, Prosecco del Casel Extra Dry
6. Podere Rocche di Manzoni, Barolo Cappella S. Stefano 2005
7.  Giacosa Bruno, Roero Ameis 2008
8.  Buranco, Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà 2007
Merano Wine & Culinaria Award

9. Mattia Barzaghi – Zeta Project, Vernaccia di S. Gimignano Zeta 2008

10. Testamatta, Testamatta 2007
Merano Wine & Culinaria Award

11. Cantina Zaccagnini, Clematis Passito 2004

12. D’Angelo, Aglianico del Vulture 2007

13. Marisa Cuomo,  Costa d’Amalfi Furore Fiorduva 2007

14. Mille & Una, Dolce & Nero 2006

15. Graci, Etna Quota 600 2007

16. Argiolas, Vermentino di Sardegna Is Argiolas 2008

17. Carlo Pellegrino, Marsala Vergine Riserva del Centenario 1980

Merano Wine & Culinaria Award

By Simona Piccinelli, Italian wine specialist

The 18th edition of the Merano International Wine Festival & Culinaria last month, crowned Merano as “the Italian capital of gastronomic excellence“. The Kurhaus – where the wine tastings took place -  opened its doors to wine lovers, gourmet and trade on Saturday November 7th, for 3 days. In spite of the hefty price tag, more than 5,000 visitors, including 300 journalists from all over the world  as well as many importers, filled the 8th century palace, exclusive meeting point where you could taste the top wines of the highest quality and meet the producers and wine personalities themselves, rather than their reps or sales people.

Wine Festival & Culinaria- Photo Cred Wino Blog

Wine Festival & Culinaria- Photo Cred Wino Blog

I tasted many, many, many wines (in this 18th edition of Merano Wine Festival, there were 322 Italian wineries and 142 producers from France, Slovenia, Germany, Austria, etc) and here are the ones that I felt in love with and would love to see in my own cellar (keep an eye out for upcoming posts on French and sparkling wines):

Kante – Friuli- 2003 Malvasia
A special edition and a special label for the 2003 vintage of this dry wine from native grape Malvasia, simply impressive! It’s a unique wine that surely strikes all great white wine lovers.Round and flavorful with hint of apricot, honey and nuts, it offers also mineral aromas.

2009 International Wine Festival & Culinaria - XVIII edition

Renato Keber – Friuli-2005 Tocai Friulano Zegla
A great character, Mr Keber, for a great wine! Made with 100% Tocai Friulano grape, this wine is macerated with the skins for 24 hours, improves for 12-14 months in 500 litre casks and for 6 months in steel. It is an explosion of flavours and emotions when you smell and taste it: pear, apricot, almonds, white flowers … If you find it, grab it!

2009 International Wine Festival & Culinaria - XVIII edition

Nando – Slovenia-2006 Rebula

2009 International Wine Festival & Culinaria - XVIII edition

Poderi Luigi Einaudi - Piedmont-2005 Barolo Nei Cannubi
A quick “hi” to Barbara and Matteo from this lovely, historic estate in Piedmont was the occasion to taste this single vineyard Barolo. Barolo is one of my passions and sometimes it is undervalued by consumers looking for ready-to-drink wines, as you need to let it age to taste it at its best. This wine is elegant, fresh and dense; full of licorice, cherry, plums and spices, it is very well balanced.
2009 International Wine Festival & Culinaria - XVIII edition

Elio Grasso - Piedmont-2005 Barolo Gavarini Chiniera

2009 International Wine Festival & Culinaria - XVIII edition

Cupano – Tuscany-2004 Brunello di Montalcino

Ornella comes from hard-working Lombardy, Lionel is Frech: they are the heart of this organic winery near Camigliano. Founded in 1998, it is already on the right tracks for distinguished wines. This Brunello is powerful and deeply coloured; cherry, tobacco, plums and spices in the mouth, with stupendous tannins and a longlasting finish.

Wine Festival & Culinaria

Capannelle - Tuscany-2005 Solare

It is always a pleasure to meet Manuele, the brilliant sales manager of this Chianti based winery. Ruby red colour, hint of plum, vanilla, almond. Velvety and full-bodied.

Wine Festival & Culinaria

Rocca di Frassinello - Tuscany-2006 Rocca di Frassinello

Wine Festival & Culinaria

Villa Matilde - Campania-2004 Camarato Falerno del Massico

This single vineyard red is one of the best wines from Villa Matilde. Great complexity, with berries, plums, licorice, cocoa, vanilla, tobacco and spices well balanced with elegant and luscious structure

Wine Festival & Culinaria

Vinosia - Campania-2002 Taurasi Riserva Rajamagra
I cannot express the joy of meeting, after so many years,  brothers Mario and Luciano Ercolino, who oversaw my first steps in the wine sector … and what a pleasant surprise their new wine adventure!! This Taurasi Riserva is full-bodied, powerful and smooth, look for it and keep it jealously, it will give terrific satisfaction in a few years …

Wine Festival & Culinaria

And after the tastings, a visit to the Culinaria hall was a MUST :)

Culinaria- Photo cred Wino Blog

Culinaria- Photo cred Wino Blog

Prosciutto- Photo cred Wino Blog

Prosciutto- Photo cred Wino Blog

Italy´s wine country is spectacularly varied from the dramatic valleys of Piedmont overshadowed by the Alps, to the fairytale wine roads of Chianti (complete with castles, medieval villages and cypress lined country roads), to the volcanic vineyards near Sicily´s Mount Etna.

Wine lovers coming to Italy are spoiled for choice when it comes to beautiful vineyards, charming restaurants and quaint family run wine estates; however luxurious and stylish accommodation has in years past, not been one of the highlights of the rural wine country. Not any longer! Wine hotels are hot hot hot right now, and there are some absolutely FABULOUS places to stay in the wine country now.

Here is a list of some of our favorite hotels either with a winery or right in the wine country (most set amid vineyards) throughout mainland the north of Italy (info on Southern Italian and Sicilian wine hotels coming soon!):

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L’Andana, Maremma

Best wine hotels in Italy- l´Andana

This is simply one of the loveliest hotels in Italy- a boutique luxury hotel located in a renovated 16th century Duke´s summer hunting lodge amid a vineyard near the castle crowned coastal village of Castiglione della Pescaia- right in the heart of Maremma, home of the Super Tuscans. L´Andana facilities include an “Espa” spa, vitality pool, a Michelin starred Alain Ducasse restaurant, vineyards and winery, hiking trails, tennis courts, – what more could you ask for?

Best wine hotels in Italy- l´Andana

More info on L´Andana hotel here.

Il Borro, Chianti

Best wine hotels in Italy- Il Borro

Owned by the Ferragamo fashion family (who purchased this medieval hamlet cum exclusive resort from the Dukes of Aosta), Il Borro is a unique vacation village. In the resort there are two ultra luxury villas and four farmhouses with individual apartments. It is located about half way between Florence and Perugia, close to the historic town of Arezzo. Within the resort there is a beautiful winery (wine has been made in this hamlet since the 1700´s) and the property also produces olive oil and honey. Il Borro is perfect for big groups or families wanting to visit the wine country in a relaxed, luxurious atmosphere. Activities that can be organized here apart from wine tasting include horseback riding, yoga, archery, hot air ballooning, and hiking.

Best wine hotels in Italy- Il Borro

More info on Il Borro here.

Castello del Nero, Chianti

Best wine hotels in Italy- Castello del Nero

A stunning, authentic 12th century castle that has been luxuriously appointed with period furniture and all the creature comforts, Castello del Nero is by far the most luxurious hotel in Chianti. Surrounded by 700 acres of romantic olive groves and vineyards, this stunning hotel could not be more picture perfect. There are 50 rooms, each uniquely decorated and many with claw foot bathtubs, and vaulted or frescoed ceilings. The facilities include one of the best spas in Italy and a fine restaurant (La Torre). This is the ultimate hotel for honeymooners and/or wine lovers looking for romance.

Best wine hotels in Italy- Castello del Nero

More info on Castello del Nero hotel here.

Banfi il Borgo, Montalcino

Best wine hotels in Italy- Castello Banfi Il Borgo

The prestigious American owned Brunello di Montalcino producer Banfi, also boats their own darling little wine country hotel, right on site. There are only 14 rooms, including some lovely suites, and the decor is rustic chic. Bathrooms are a strength here with features you don’t often find in European hotels like professional hairdryers, oversized showers, etc. Guests have access to many pretty exclusive areas like the reading room, the pergola garden and the convivial Taverna restaurant. Then of course, on the property, they can visit the winery castle and the glass museum, open to the general public. This is the best option for a luxury hotel near Montalcino, especially as Castello di Velona is closed for renovation.

Best wine hotels in Italy- Castello Banfi Il Borgo

More info on Banfi Borgo hotel here.

Chianti wine region profile and Chianti private tours.

Maremma wine region profile and Maremma private tours.

Montalcino wine region profile and Montalcino private tours.

Tuscany

PIEDMONT

L’Ostelliere, Gavi

Best wine hotels Italy- Ostelliere

Gavi is one of Piedmont’s least visited wine regions, and what a pity as some of the countryside is pristine, the village of Gavi offers a preserved historic center and the Monterotondo wine resort has it all- rustic hotel, top class restaurant (La Gallina), famous winery (Villa Sparina)- all set amid manicured vineyards. As in all the wine hotels, the most spectacular months to visit are September and October (harvest time) when the vineyards are at their best and the weather is still nice enough to sit outside on the terrace sipping a glass of wine taking it all in. Non wine related activities this hotel offers are bike tours of the area, posh picnics on the river, cooking classes, truffle hunting, and visits to rice producers. Of the 25 rooms here,12 are suites and worth paying extra for.

Best wine hotels Italy- Ostelliere

More info on Ostelliere hotel here.

Relais Monforte , Langhe

Best wine hotels Italy- Relais Monforte

This is the Langhe´s newest highly acclaimed hotel just opened this spring. And it is an oasis for golf lovers! Located near the medieval wine hamlet of Monforte d´Alba in the heart of Barolo wine country,Relais Monforte actually has a working winery on site- the Cascina Gagliass. Many of the 36 bedrooms have big terraces and rooms and this contemporary and stylish hotel is just what the doctor ordered for guests looking for bright and airy decor and high end, discreet service. Facilities and services include: 9 hole golf course on site, wine tasting on site, private cooking classes, a wellness center, and stylish restaurant (Piedmont cuisine with an innovative approach).

Best wine hotels Italy- Relais Monforte

More info on Relais Monforte hotel here.

Albergo Agenzia, Bra

Best wine hotels Italy- Albergo dell´Agenzia

Slow Food headquarters- how cool is that? The Albergo Agenzia, located near the Slow Food capital of Bra, is a handsome hotel set in a historic (Neo Gothic) Savoy residence. While the rooms are fairly simple and not luxurious by any means, the benefit to staying here is right on site you have the famed wine bank which you can visit and the outstanding Michelin starred Ristorante Guido. Also on site, out of interest, is the International University of Gastronomic Science which attracts culinary students and professionals from around the world. This hotel is also a good base for wine touring as you have Barolo, Barbaresco and Alba all nearby, not to mention Giolito cheese, our favorite cheese tasting venue.

Best wine hotels Italy- Albergo dell´Agenzia

More info on Albergo Agenzia hotel here.

Piedmont wine region profile and Piedmont private tours.

FRIULI

Terra e Vini, Gorizia

Friuli wine hotel

Friuli is THE “it place” for cult white wines at the moment. It´s huge fans and advocates include Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich is even making wine here. we are also major fans of Friuli, one of Italy´s undiscovered wine regions. Located northeast of Venice, Friuli is home to some stunning scenery, interesting cities like Trieste (which attracted writers like James Joyce) and of course those wines…. white wines are what the region has become know for, and a new term has even been coined “Super Whites” and the town of Gorizia is where you´ll find some of the best wine country. This little hotel calls itself an osteria (restaurant) with rooms. Indeed, the rooms are an afterthought and don´t expect luxury, but if you want to be in the thick of the wine country this is a great option. Elda Felluga’s restaurant has become mythical and you can experience it for yourself, then stay over and wake up to views of the gentle Friulian countryside.

Friuli wine hotel

More info on Terra e Vini hotel here.

Friuli wine region profile.

FRANCIACORTA

L´Albereta Relais & Chateaux

Franciacorta wine hotel- L´Albereta

Franciacorta is Italy´s most exclusive sparkling wine region and this gorgeous Relais & Chateaux is simply the only place to stay for guests looking for romance, atmosphere and luxury, of course! Located less than 90 minutes east of Milan, near the pretty Lake Iseo and the town of Brescia, Franciacorta is one of the north´s hidden wine country gems. The Albereta is the perfect place to stay for a wine tasting spa weekend, with its 2 same owned wineries (stylish Contadi Castaldi and the uber prestigious Bellavista) and world class spa (which includes Apollo, the new beauty technology). If you are celebrating a special occasion and want to splash out, book the Cabriolet room in the Torre di Lago- push a button and the roof opens up for you to admire the stars from your four poster bed! Another fabulous reason to stay here is to dine at Gualtiero Marchesi´s super famous restaurant, benissimo!

Franciacorta wine hotel- L´Albereta

More info on Albereta Relais & Chateaux hotel here.

Relais Franciacorta

Relais Franciacorta wine hotel

For an inexpensive option in the Franciacorta wine country, this is a great choice. Use this comfortable, rustic hotel as a base to explore the top wineries of the area such as Bellavista, Bersi Serlini, and Il Mosnel. Set up a cooking class at one of the local restaurants. Do a Michelin star dining tour of the region, rent a boat on the lake, visit the art city of Bergamo and see the Ancient Roman ruins in Brescia, take some invigorating hikes… there are many opportunities for a relaxing vacation in Francciacorta. This hotel has 50 rooms, some of which have lake views (worth it) and decor is simple country design. one thing to watch out for though is that many weddings are organized here, so make sure a wedding does not correspond to your dates if staying here as it is no fun if not your own wedding!

Relais Franciacorta wine hotel

More info on Relais Franciacorta hotel here

Franciacorta wine region profile and Franciacorta private tours.

VENETO- PROSECCO AND VALPOLICELLA

Relais Duca di Rolle Bisol, Prosecco

Relais Duca di Rolle Bisol, Prosecco

In the gentle rolling hills of the Prosecco wine country, the wonderful Bisol winery have opened this darling little self catering complex in the hamlet of Rolle. About 50 minutes north of Venice, you are immersed in unspoiled countryside here. This is a fantastic option for big families travelling together as you can rent the various apartments and cook on your own in the fully equipped kitchens. There are also 2 great little restaurants in the hamlet. If you are on a budget and want to spend a few days in the wine country close to Venice, this is a stellar choice. Time it to correspond with the Cocofungo mushroom festival in October or the various wine festivals in the region. Don´t miss Bisol´s winery of course as well as the stately Villa Sandi.

More info on Bisol wine hotel here.

Villa Quar, Relais & Chateaux

Villa Quar, Relais & Chateaux

The Valpolicella wine region is home to the famed Amarone and Recioto wines, and is a delight to visit. You can either use historic Verona as a base, or for something more romantic and original, you can stay right in the countryside (only 5 km from Verona). And great news- there is a marvelous Relais & Chateaux hotel awaiting you here. This five star luxury hotel is set inside a vential Villa and the Villa Quar is strikingly elegant. The villa itself is Italian patrimony, and breathes history and prestige. A n ancient stone wall encircles the breathtaking property, which encompasses its own vineyards used to make the hotel´s own wine (!) The gastronomic Arquade (2 Michelin stars) restaurant is world class and foodies from all over Northern Italy flock here. There are 28 room here, 10 of which are suites, and decor is classic Relais & Chateaux style. Rooms are stuffed with many antiques, too. Gorgeous and the ultimate destination for a wine tasting weekend in Valpolicella.

Villa Quar, Relais & Chateaux

More info on Villa Quar, Relais & Chateaux here.

Prosecco wine region profile and Prosecco private tours.

Valpolicella wine region profile and Valpolicella private tours.

More Wine Hotels in SOUTHERN ITALY coming soon.

Italian wine country

Angelo Gaja 150 year Anniversary at Vin Italy

The mythical Piemonte wine family Gaja is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year at the annual wine fair Vin Italy. And what better way to celebrate it than with a fabulous wine tasting of Gaja´s best wines ever? This once in a  lifetime event will take place on Saturday April 4th at the Centro Congressi Europa in Verona. Internationally famous wine write Jancis Robinson will lead the spectacular and unique tasting of wines to include:  Gaia&Rey 1994, Darmagi 1997, Conteisa 1996, Sperss 1989, Sorì San Lorenzo 1988 and Barbaresco 1964!!!!!

Tickets will be available for sale soon, keep your eyes peeled on the Vin Italy website for details still to be released. Proceeds will go to charity (Fondazione Nuovo Ospedale Alba – Bra Onlus).

More info here.

Angelo Gaja 150 year Anniversary at Vin Italy

WHEN TO GO- Vin Italy takes place from April 2-6 in the elegant Italian city of Verona.

WHERE TO STAY- In Verona, we love the historic Gabbia d´Oro with its charming period furniture and splendid location.

WHERE TO DINE- Verona is full of exceptional restaurants and we particularly love: Il Desco (think suckling pig with black truffles, cannoli stuffed with Burrata cheese and high end creative cooking); beautiful Maffei, an elegant restaurant set in a Baroque dining room; the convivial Bottega dei Vini (the risotto cooked in Amarone wine is straight from heaven!) and the trendy Ristorante al Cristo (sushi, Pintxos and creative cuisine dished out in a 16th century palazzo).

WHAT TO DO- In Verona, don´t miss the Roman Arena, one of the best preserved Ancient Roman remains in Italy; the Cathedral, Castle and Royal Gardens are all delightful, too; further afield you could visit the Amarone wine country; head to lovely Lake Garda; Venice is only a short distance….

MORE WINE EVENTS IN ITALY- here is a list of 2009 wine events including Vin Italy

Vino 2009 Italian Wine Week in USA Jan 24-30

Posted by gen On January - 24 - 2009

Vino 2009 Italian Wine Week in USA

From today until January 30th, the “First Industry Convention of Italian Wines in America” will be taking place in three American cities- Boston, New York and Miami. The Italian Trade Commission is launching this new annual wine fest in the USA with a series of seminars on Italian wine and will inaugurate the festival at the Boston Wine Expo today and tomorrow (Jan 24-25) and will then be followed by Italian wine events in new York City from Jan 26-28 ( at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, Palace hotel and Hilton hotel). The event at the Hilton (with over 250 wineries present) will be a major highlight of this event. Vino 2009, as the festival is being called, is targeted at wine trade and journalists, with  a wide array of activities (presentations, tastings, etc) for the lucky guests. Vino 2009 concludes in Miami at a stellar wine event taking place at  the Intercontinental Hotel on Jan 30.

This should be a fantastic wine industry event and we look forward to attending next year!

Any time of the year is a good time to visit the wine country when it comes to drinking nice wines! But winter can be the most challenging season to visit as vineyards are dormant and bare (not lush and verdant, as in other times of the year), and many of Europe´s wine regions are covered in overcast and bleak skies. There are a few regions however that are just fabulous to visit in winter, and here are some nice ideas for wine lovers looking for that unforgettable winter wine tasting escape:

Winter wine tastings

Alentejo, Portugal

The Alentejo is without a doubt one of our favorite wine regions in Europe. This unspoiled and breathtaking region features soft, rolling hills studded with cork trees and Moorish castles and is spotted with colonial style wine “quintas”. The scenery in Alentejo is reminiscent of the romantic savannas of “Out of Africa” and in winter, you can expect bright blue skies and invigorating cold weather. For a winter wine tasting break we suggest you use the Unesco heritage town of Évora as a base, visit a few wineries and enjoy some long leisurely wine lunches in cozy restaurants with open fireplaces.

Wineries to visit: Esporão, Monte Seis Reis, Herdade da Malhadinha are all favorites and can provide (paying) tours and tastings if you contact them beforehand to set up the appointments.

Alentejo winery consortium:Vinhos do Alentejo feature all kinds of wine region info on their website for self-drive trips (in Portuguese).

Where to stay: Our favorite hotel is definitely the romantic and luxurious Convento do Espinheiro, just outside Évora.

More Info on the Alentejo wine region

Luxury chauffeured wine weekends in Alentejo

Alentejo wine region in winterAlentejo wine region in winterAlentejo wine region in winter

Sherry Country, Spain

Jerez de la Frontera, the main wine town in the “Sherry lands” is a truly delightful little provincial capital. The benefit here is that the wineries are right in the historic center so you don´t need to drive and you can taste as many wines as you like! Most are in walking distance of each other through the pleasant center. Sherry wines are varied (finos, amontillados, palo cortados, and more) and quite strong, perfect on a sunny and cold winter´s day. The ideal winter wine weekend in Jerez would include winery tours, an excursion to beautiful Seville (one hour by train), and a lunch at La Mesa Redonda.

Wineries to visit: Sandeman (our favorite for private VIP tours), Pedro Domecq, Bodegas Tradición, Emilio Lustau, González Byass (Tio Pepe)

Sherry winery consortium: Consejo Regulador Denominacion De Origen Jerez Xerez Sherry

Where to stay: Our favorite hotel in Jerez is the Palacio de Garvey (which made it to our top ten wine hotels in Spain hotlist). The Villa Jerez is another refined little hotel, out of the center in a more residential neighborhood.

More Info on the Sherry wine region

Info on luxurious wine weekends in Seville and Jerez

Winter wine tastings

Valtellina, Italy

The ultimate winter wine escape, Valtellina offers sunny blue skies, fluffy snowy mountains in winter and phenomenal red wines made with the Chiavennasca grape (cousin of Barolo´s Nebbiolo grape). The region is alpine, near the Swiss border and the perfect winter wine weekend could include winery visits and tastings, an excursion to pretty St Moritz (on the Swiss side) and an excursion by horse-drawn sled through the snow. The cuisine is FABULOUS, real mountain food and it perfectly accompanies the rich, velvety “Sforzato” wines.

Wineries to visit: None of the wineries have regular scheduled tours, so you will need to contact them individually to request a (paying) visit and tasting. We particularly love Nino Negri, Triacca, Rainoldi and Conti Sertoli Salis.

Valtellina winery consortium: Consorzio Vini Valtellini have information on the region, wineries and travel tips.

Where to stay: There are some wonderful spa hotels, perfect in winter. We love the Bagni di Bormio, a real destination hotel with wonderful soothing spa treatments and natural springs.

More Info on the Valtellina wine region

We organize luxurious chauffeured wine tasting weekends in Valtellina, more info here.

Valtellina wine region for winter escapes Valtellina wine region for winter escapes

Prosecco Wines and Travel Info

The Prosecco wine region in northeastern Italy is one of our favorite destinations and we are delighted to share with you some of our top picks from the region if you will be travelling to Prosecco:

Appellation(s)- The main appellation is DOC Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. Other ones in the Treviso-Conegliano-Valdobbiadene geographic triangle include: Prosecco DOC del Montello e dei Colli Asolani, Prosecco IGT dei Colli Trevigiana,  Prosecco IGT della Marca Trevigiana and Prosecco IGT del Veneto.

Prosecco Wine

What to drink- Look out for “Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze” on the label. Top producers include Bisol, Zardetto, Villa Sandi, Carpenè Malvotti, Canevel, Ruggeri & C, Adami and Cantina Produttori di Valdobbiadene.

Wineries to Visit: The Prosecco consorzio have a lot of information on wineries that you can visit, contact them for info on self-drive trips.

Here are a few of our favorites-

Villa Sandi- one of the most architecturally appealing wineries in the entire area, Villa Sandi can offer tours for the general public by previous appointment (paying). More information on this beautiful estate here.

Prosecco Wines and Travel Info

Bisol- Apart from the outstanding visits they do (by previous appointment and paying), Bisol also have a tiny inn located in a converted monastery should you like to stay over on their gorgeous property. More information on Bisol here.

Bisol

Where to Stay:

Villa Cipriani in lovely Asolo is one of our favorite hotels in the area, luxurious and very quaint with stunning views.

Follina is home to two very elegant historic hotels, the Villa Abbazia (classic charm) and the Hotel dei Chiostri (more contemporary interiors).

Where to Dine:

Villa Sandi have a terrific restaurant close to the wine estate called the Locanda Sandi.

Trattoria alla Cima is one of our favorite little restaurants in the area, located in pretty Valdobbiadene

Try you hand at cooking at home with Prosecco, check out these recipes.

trattoria-alla-cima

Luxury Private Wine Tours:

Cellar Tours offer private VIP tours for couples and groups by Mercedes sedan and vans to top cellars with special lunches and wine pairings included. More info on day trips from Venice here.

Prosecco Wines and Travel Info

Special Events in the Prosecco Region:

21February – 8 March 2009- In Vidor, they hold a spring “Mostra” (showcasing) of Prosecco wines from the DOC. Info here.

21March – 13 April 2009- In Col San Martino, another spring wine festival takes place, information here.

11– 26 April 2009- this year the“Prosecco Brotherhood” will hold the 39th Cartizze and Valdobbiadene DOC Wine Festival. Info here.

24 April – 3 May 2009- the wine hamlet of Saccol, near San Pietro hosts the ultra high quality Cartizze and Valdobbiadene DOC Wine Show. Info here.

30 May – 14 June 2009-S. Pietro di Feletto ( a medieval hamlet with an ancient Camaldolesi monastery) is the host to the  Vini di Collina wine fair, info here.

26-28 September 2009- In Conegliano they hold an annual grape harvest festival (“Festa dell Uva) Info here.

More events in Prosecco here.

Prosecco Wine Festivals