Celebrating the Season with Sparkling Freisa #ItalianFWT

For those of you that know me, you know I’m a bit of wine geek when it comes to Italian grape varieties! The learning never ends, and it’s a bonus when I get to buy native Italian wine varietals then smile from ear to ear when I can hand sell them, and sing the praises of all these grapes that I love so dearly!

Let’s call a spade a spade shall we? 2020 has really…for lack of better word, sucked. It’s been a rollercoaster of lockdowns, then ups, then a few freedoms; for everything to just be restricted once again. Cheers to my friends in the Southern hemisphere who are moving into summer and (hopefully) much lightening up of restrictions and lockdowns. It’s been a challenge to say the least.

But everything can always be made better with bubbles right? I was never really a fan of the bubbly, but as I get older, I just can’t get enough of them! Any shape, size, grape, method; bring it on! Bubbles make ME happy, and I’m sure they make many others happy too! Christmas and New Years is certainly a time when the bubble buying and consumption increases, and I’m always content to write about them! Especially if it’s a bubbly made from a lesser know Italian variety!

Enter Freisa…a relative of the great nebbiolo, grown in Piemonte and ripens after nebbiolo. In fact, its a very close relative of the famous grape, perhaps a child of nebbiolo with another unknown parent.  The name Freisa is derived from the latin fresia which means strawberry, and notes of strawberry are typically evident on any wine expression.  Like nebbiolo, it is light in the glass with a perfume of strawberry and sour red cherry. For those who have tasted Freisa, you know what I’m talking about. It has a fragrance and freshness like no other and the high acidity and tannic edge is always useful when pairing foods that are in need of something palate cleansing!

I’m a big fan of family owned wineries. Given a choice, I will always sell them over any big brand. The Russo family of Monferrato is Crotin 1897. Started by their grandfather in 1897 (hence the name), it is now run by daughter Daniela and her three sons who work together to make wine from their native grapes; run an agroturismo, and a guest house where visitors can have a full experience of Piemontese food, wine and culture.  There, you can have salami from their own pigs, bread and pasta from their own wheat, and jam and honey from their own fruit and hives–what they call “0 kilometre eating”. A “one stop shop” so to speak. You can find their wines made from Barbera,  Freisa, Grignolino, Albarossa (one of the most successful crossings: Barbera x Chatus), and Bussanello (a white grape that is also a crossing: Riesling Italico x Furmint). They only make 2500 cases annually…of everything. Period. Lucky us, in this market, we have access to the Freisa, Grignolino, Barbera, Bussanello, Albarossa and the subject of this post: the Nautilus. It’s a sparkling Freisa (but for total authenticity, there is 20% Pinot Nero in the bottle). Because of Freisa’s natural high acidity, it’s a perfect candidate for sparkling wine. I firmly believe this is why we are seeing so many sparklers coming from Italy’s native grapes: high acid=potential sparkling wine!

The label on all Crotin wines features a seashell, which pays homage to the soils on and around the property. I look forward to visiting one day, but apparently your feet might come in contact with these shells while walking through the vineyards!

I was expecting a super fresh wine, since it’s made with the Martinotti method, and indeed it was. Aromas of wild strawberries and citrus pith, the palate was refreshing and lively with more wild strawberries, red currants, cranberry and blood orange, with herbal undernotes (think rosemary and thyme). There was some creaminess going on in my meal because of the sauce I had on my pasta, and the bubbles helped to cleanse my palate and be ready for the next bite! My thought process for pairing was always some sort of vegetable dish (which to be honest was the highlight of the meal with the colour: autumn veggie choices of zucchini and brussel sprouts, along with heritage cherry tomato and spices), with the other parts of my meal complementing nicely. Mostly, it was a great way to have a full-flavoured meal (dill and garlic being the primary spices) and have a lovely refreshing wine to “wash it all down” with!

The sparkling Freisa hit the spot and if you’re looking for a sparkling wine for your turkey (or other poultry) dinner, this would be a good choice if you can find it! Or, just celebrate the season with a good bubbly and raise your glass to saying good riddance to 2020 and hello to 2021!

If you can’t find a freisa, please check out my fellow bloggers in #ItalianFWT to see what sparkler they are quaffing this holiday season, and it just might be available in YOUR market. Salute e Buon Natale!

  • Terri of Our Good Life says Beviamo alla nostra! Prosecco Superiore and Happy Christmas!
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences writes about Pure Trentodoc – Sparkling Wines from the Mountains.
  • Jill of L’Occasion encourages us to Be in Italy for the Holidays with This Bubbly Wine Lineup.
  • Gwendolyn of Wine Predator pushes Beyond Prosecco? Try These Sustainable Sparkling Wines from Italy’s Erbaluce, Franciacorta, Lambrusco, Pignoletto.
  • Lynn of Savor the Harvest gives us Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco to Make Your Holiday Sparkle – La Tordera Rive Di Guia.
  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm says Cheers to 2021…2020 Don’t Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out.
  • Susannah of Avvinare pours Versatile Lambrusco for the Holidays.
  • Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen serves Val D’Oca Prosecco Paired with Party Starters.
  • Payal of Keep the Peas offers A ‘SeeYaNever2020’ Toast with Italian Bubbly.
  • Linda of My Full Wine Glass says Hello Again, Lambrusco – Everyone Deserves a Second Chance.
  • Jane of Always Ravenous pairs a Frizzante with Holiday Sweet Treats.
  • Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles pours Prosecco – Joyful Bubbles to “Wring” Out 2020.
  • Jen of Vino Travels is ready to Sparkle up the Holidays with Italian Prosecco.
  • Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog offers A Taste of 21st Century Lambrusco; Paltrinieri Lambrusco di Sorbara Radice.
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla is Celebrating with Prosecco Superiore Amidst the Pandemic.
  • Katrina of GrapevineAdventures is discussing A Year in Need of Sparkling Wine Surprises


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Being Thankful

Canadian Thanksgiving is today…and it’s truly one of my favourite holidays! I love the crisp, cool air, the endless sunshine (in these parts, we get a lot) and the panorama of autumn colours is pretty astounding! The Capital Region River Valley (I live in the Capital city of Alberta – Edmonton, just in case you’re wondering) teems with folks walking their dogs, throwing the toys for retrieval, and those same dogs taking a dip down by the river’s edge. The dogs don’t care that the water is cooler, they just like to chase that stick!

As we know, 2020 has been a challenging year, and one might wonder what there is to be thankful for! But indeed for me there is…I still have my health, I’ve had a job through all the lockdowns, shutdowns, smackdowns, whatever, I’ve still been employed! I’m one of the blessed ones, as I work in an industry that is deemed “essential”. I’m holding out hope that ours (as well as other economies) will remain open, albeit with some strict(er) measures. I fear that to shut everything down again would lead to some serious demise. And when I say demise, I mean anarchy & riots. All that to say, I’m thankful. My house is warm & secure, I’m employed full time, as is Mr. Joy of Wine and one daughter who is full time in her chosen field (a Registered Nurse) and the other, University & part time work. All of us in an “essential” service, so there’s much to be thankful for and I always like to put it in writing!

My job offers me the ability to taste, analyze and purchase wine for the consumer; keeping in mind that it is something I think might sell for immediate consumption, cellaring, or gifting. By the way, Christmas is only 11 weeks away…it’s never too early to start shopping! Stay tuned for another blog about gift ideas!

My big turkey dinner was last night. Canadian Thanksgiving calls for Canadian wine. It’s a  tradition in fact to drink Canadian wine on Thanksgiving! Two amazing wineries (one small and one medium sized) with well-made wines to grace our tables! They also happen to be two of my favourites. The winemakers have been in the industry for a good while, making them somewhat mavericks of their areas and the grapes they grow.

Grant Stanley of Spearhead Winery, has been in the area for more than 15 years. A New Zealander originally, he comes by growing and producing Pinot Noir honestly. It’s the signature red grape of the region (NZ), and it’s one he specializes in, and does so very well. But his Clone 95 Chardonnay graced my table yesterday (Btw, another grape he is fond of growing!) and married well with all those flavours of roast turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and roasted Brussel sprouts with bacon. My bad, I failed to take a photo of said food spread, but needless to say, it all went over very well (with everyone having their own serving spoon to dish up…sigh). The wine disappeared very quickly.

Then there was Marcus Ansems Daydreamer Pinot Gris. The Australian born MW and his wife Rachel had a dream to start their own project, and with a little piece of Naramata Bench in the Okanagan they did just that. The 2018 left with a hint of RS on the palate to deliver a weightier, fuller mouth feel Pinot Gris with just a hint of sweetness on the tip of the tongue. By the way, turkey soup is on the menu tonight and the saltiness of the soup will enhance the sweetness of this wine. Oops, I’ve already had a bowl for lunch so I know this is true! (Yes, there was some leftover wine today, but won’t be by tomorrow!) It was a perfect match, my soup and the pinot gris. This wine is a great way to start diving into the world of quality wines, for those that need a wine which is a bit sweeter. It reminded me of ripe pears and golden delicious apples, baked in the oven with nutmeg & cinnamon…flavours of Fall indeed!

That was all last night. Today, I’m thankful that we can celebrate just being Thankful. In fact, we should be doing it everyday, not just on a specified day where many of us as Canadians have the day off. Let’s be thankful for the freedom to still be with those that we love (albeit in smaller numbers). But this, like any other pandemic, will soon be a distant memory. I’m being optimistic when I say that. I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping for a bit of “normalcy” in 2021 and beyond. My American friends will have their day later on next month.

There’s always something to be thankful for. Always. It might only be one thing, but there’s always something. Enjoy a glass of good wine tonight with someone you love and celebrate all the things we are Thankful for! Salute!

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Rosato d’Aglianco Vulture: More than Just a Red Wine #ItalianFWT

This month for #ItalianFWT, we round up rosati! How appropriate given that summer is the height of drinking pink. Although it’s peak time for any rose, they can certainly be drunk all year long, as I do! A huge thanks to Lauren from The Swirling Dervish for hosting and for picking such a great theme!

For my rosato, we’re headed to Basilicata. It’s the southern region in-between the “toe” (Calabria), and the “heel” (Puglia). It’s a region of Italy I have not yet visited, but is high on my Italy visit list. To see those extinct volcanoes and row upon row of aglianico vines would be a dream come true!

Aglianico grows in the southern regions of Italy, but is most notable from Taurasi and Taburno in Campania and from the Vulture in Basilicata. In Basilicata, aglianico is THE red grape. And in a region that we don’t typically hear about, the next generation is sticking around to promote and keep making wines just like generations before, yet with modern technologies and winemaking techniques. Cantine Madonna delle Grazie is one of those families with the torch being passed to son Paolo, whom I had the privilege of meeting in (of all places), Barolo! They are a family owned winery in Venosa, Basilicata, the “instep” of Italy’s boot. The rosato I’m drinking from Madonna delle Grazie is called Sagaris, made from 100% aglianico. I contacted Paolo for some information on how this name came about and this is what he said: 

“Sagaris was a freed slave, mentioned in a Latin inscription, found in the streets of Venosa; he is described as an attentive and trusted conductor of his master land. With the same care and with our complete dedication to work both in the vineyard and in the cellar, we want to recall his name and example.”

This 2018 vintage, Paolo told me, was 100% direct press, but the 2019 (which I have yet to taste), has skin contact. They decide (on the method) based on the quality and taste of the grape. I love this: letting the grapes decide the process! The beautiful dark rose colour has aromas of orange peel, pomegranate, flint, pungent floral violet, and hints of savoury herbs. On the palate the refreshing acidity hits you right up front with more pomegranate fruit along with cranberry and sour raspberry. Lots of minerality notes coming from the volcanic soil with granite, wet rock and flint notes. 

Paolo went on to describe for me what types of foods the locals would have with this rosato! Simple bruschetta with pomidori, zucchine and melanzane mixed with (of course) extra virgin oglio d’oliva. He didn’t say this, but some fresh basilico on top would bring all these flavours together for a magical pairing! Needless to say, my mouth was watering after all the descriptions! But he wasn’t yet finished! Let’s not forget about the pasta dishes! 

“If we move on to the pasta side, this was our pasta last week made with zucchine flowers and zucchine, easy to prepare and very tasty. We may prepare also some pasta with mussel and yellow pomodorini; or a more winter pasta is the classic strascinati (a longer kind of cavatelli) with fried mollica di pane and crispy flakes of crumbled, locally-grown heirloom red peppers, known as peperoni cruschi.”

Photo courtesy of Paolo Latorraca- Madonna delle Grazie

Photo courtesy of Paolo Latorraca- Madonna delle Grazie

The Italians certainly know how to eat-it’s definitely about the food and wine together!  (And aren’t these photos fabulous? Thank you Paolo!)

It’s super hot here right now, which makes creating dishes next to impossible, especially when the temperature inside my house is 30C. Not ideal for cooking or creating some great food pairings.  I lived vicariously through Paolo’s pairings mostly, but found some gyoza first to boil, then to pan fry in olive oil. My simple food pairing of chicken gyoza with all those umami flavours happened to go surprisingly well with my Aglianico rosato! A sweetness emerged with mouth-smacking sour cherry notes. This Aglianico rosato is a pleasant surprise and with  more structure than your average rosato, it’s a definite food wine!

On another note of interest, Madonna delle Grazie makes a white aglianico. My first question was: is this a mutation of aglianico (like pinot blanc or grenache blanc), or fermenting only the juice? It’s the latter, and the Leuconoe also has some history behind the name.  “Venosa was also home to the poet Horace (from 1st century BC), who wrote the poem “Carpe diem”(Odes 1.11) dedicated to the women
‘Leuconoe’ who inspired us for our white wine”, Paolo says. The wine is a delightful  surprise with laser sharp acidity, citrus notes and that quintessential minerality only found from volcanic soils.  I can’t wait to try the 2019! But back to the Sagaris…if you can get your hands on a bottle of aglianico rosato, especially this one from Madonna delle Grazie, you will have found a true gem! Salute!

To learn of some other amazing Italian rosati, check out some of the other #ItalianFWT writers! I can’t wait to read them!

  • David from Cooking Chat writes about Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo: Pairings with My Favorite Italian Rosé
  • Pinny from Chinese Food and Wine Pairings writes about Pairing Bibi Graetz Casamatta Toscana Rosato with Drunken Cold Chicken Wings and Pork Knuckle, Sautéed Julienne Leeks #ItalianFWT
  • Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla tempts us with Sardinian Native Grapes, Italian Pinks, and Gamberi all’Aglio
  • Terri from Our Good Life shares her pairing for Roasted Chicken Flatbread with Spumante Rosato
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass says Summer Won’t Last: and Neither Will this Charming Chiaretto in Your Glass
  • Martin from Enofylz Wine Blog is Dreaming of Sicily with a Graci Rosato
  • Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm is making Summer Quiche with an Italian Rosato
  • Gwendolyn from Wine Predator offers Summer Dinner with Rosato from Tuscany and Sicily
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass reminds us that Summer Won’t Last
  • Lynn from Savor the Harvest suggests Rosato: Drinking Pink Italian Style, from the Mountains to the Sea
  • Nicole from Somm’s Table prepares Cheese, Charcuterie, and Ciabatta with Praesidium Cerasuolo
  • Robin from Crushed Grape Chronicles offers Pallotte Cac e Ove & Orecchiette with Two Brilliant Cherry Red Rosatos from Southeast Italy
  • Katrina from The Corkscrew Concierge advises us to Get to Know Lambrusco Rosato
  • Susannah from Avvinare tells us that Italy’s Chiaretto from Lake Garda Makes Waves
  • Jennifer from Vino Travels shares Rosato from the Veneto with Pasqua
  • Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares Cantele Negroamaro Rosato: Summer Wine from the Heart of Puglia
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I Collazzi and a Big Ol’ Steak #ItalianFWT

Super Tuscans: You love them or you hate them. They are wines that statistically score high, but are they all necessarily good? What does it all even mean?

Tuscany is known more for the sangiovese grape, with various amounts of it in five DOCG up to 100% in the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG. However, with the popularity of international grape varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot, producers wanted the option to be able to use these grapes. Because the laws never permitted these grapes, the wines were downgraded to simple Vino di Tavola, yet they were far from simple!

Brands like Sassicaia and Tignanello were big on putting Super Tuscans on the map, as they believed in these grapes because the climate was suitable for their growth. After much perserverance from the Tenuta San Guido Estate (Sassicaia), the designation for Bolgheri DOC now exists (1994) and one for its very own, Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC in 2013.

Today, I’m not here to talk about them, but rather I Collazzi, an estate owned by the Marchi family since 1933. Of their vast land holdings of 400 ha, only 25 ha is actual vineyards, with surprisingly very little sangiovese. They grow mainly cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot, and interestingly enough have an outstanding single varietal petit verdot called Ferro in their lineup.

The IGT Toscana I Collazzi consists of Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Cabernet Franc 25%, Merlot 20%, Petit Verdot 5% – pretty much a true Bordeaux blend and not terribly expensive at $64 CAD for the 2016 vintage.

But the real deal here is what I like to call a Baby Super Tuscan, their Libertà featuring not only merlot and cab franc, but with the addition of Syrah to put a little spicy kick in this wine! The name Libertà has some history behind it also! The city of Florence gave a gift to eight Florentine families, of which one such family was the then owners of the Collazzi property who fought valiently to free

the city.

The 55% merlot keeps the wine soft, the 30% cabernet franc brings structure and complexity to the blend and the 15% syrah kicks it into the spice camp. You’ll also find amazing flavours of ripe plum, red currants, ripe red cherries, forest floor and hints of pepper spice and a nice touch of oak.  Just the right amount of smooth tannins and some tangy acidity; it’s just begging for a big piece of meat! It drinks well beyond its price point, which in my market is an absolute steal at $20 CAD/bottle! By the way…I did a Riedel tasting on my last trip to Italy, and they poured 2012 Sassicaia in the Cab glass.  I was underwhelmed. So that to say…that not all the big names in Super Tuscan land are winners!

And when in Florence and surrounding area, la bistecca is the go to meat, and there’s nothing better than a big ol’ steak with a full bodied Super Tuscan wine, even if it’s a Baby Super Tuscan! Little did I know, that my 20-year-old daughter had found a recipe online for steak marinade and put the steak to stew for five hours. She blended (all things Italian really) balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, basil…and a few other ingredients) to make this unbelievable tasting steak that my husband then put on the grill. Those flavours, plus the wine, was like a unicorn dancing on a rainbow…one of the best combos I’ve ever had! The fruit was explosive and dancing in my mouth and the flavours of the steak, the marinade, the asparagus and my fresh greens (from my garden I might add) all came together as some sort of Utopia…I think I finished half the bottle of Libertà, it was just that good…

It’s not all about me though! Get in on the conversation (or maybe the controversy) and have a look at my fellow #ItalianFWT writers to see what they have to say! And join us for our Twitter chat, June 27, 2020!

Super Tuscans, Take-Out Pizza, and a Spicy Summer Salad |Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Super Tuscan Wine Pairing: I Sodi di San Niccolò and Scallop Shrimp Pasta with Tomatoes and Mushrooms |The Wine Chef

Super Tuscans: What’s It All About? |VinoTravels

A Stop at Brancaia and a Pizza Night |Somm’s Table

Super rating, super price – Is this Super Tuscan super? | My Full Wine Glass

Have You Tried These Super Tuscans? |The Wining Hour

There’s no need to Fear, Super Tuscans are here! |Our Good Life

Are Super Tuscans still relevant and worth my time and money?|Crushed Grape Chronicles

Cooper’s Hawk: A Great Concept and a Super Super Tuscan |A Day In the Life on the Farm

No Super Tuscans for Me! | FoodWineClick

Super Tuscans: Keep Your Sassicaia, I’ll take the Sangiovese |WinePredator

Supertuscan Is All About The Name, Not In The Wine |GrapeVine Adventures.

Looking Beyond the Name Super-Tuscans |Avvinare

Naming Rights + Super Tuscans |Our fearless host Jill Barth at L’Occasion

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Quarantine: 14 Days of Isolation Wines – Day 14

We made it! After succesfully completing 14 days of self isolation, one would be ready to go back to work. However, many of us no longer have a job so the isolation will continue. If you are reading this and you don’t have a job to go back to, I’m very, very sorry. This is not an easy time for anyone, and I think often of parents with school-aged children, trying to not only keep themselves from going stark raving mad because the kids are around all the time, but trying to home school them and/or keep them entertained. For those that work at home, the balance of trying to get it all done as well as being a parent. Tough stuff. I also think of those who have been laid off and are on endless hold on the phone, or on a website that is continually kicking you off or timing out, just to figure out the future of your finances. Or, there are people like my parents who are both almost 80. They don’t always understand why they have to stay inside, but we beg them to do so, hoping they will listen, and by staying in, keep them from getting sick.

It’s definitely one for the record books…

If you have a “stash” of wine, pick out something good for yourself tonight. A bottle you’ve been saving for a special occasion, a bottle received as a gift for a special occasion. Whatever it is, dust if off and just open it. Simple or expensive, it doesn’t matter. After you’ve opened it and poured it in your glass, Savour. Every. Single. Sip. Think about what you are smelling and tasting, what you might eat with this, and then when you might have this exact same bottle again – in a different, better time.  Think of the person who gave it to you, if it was a gift. Mostly, think of what the wine reminds you of. All good things I hope. Through all of this, I want everyone to remember that “this too, shall pass.” For those of you living in warmer climes, I envy you, for you can at least sit on your front steps, or your veranda, your deck or porch, and listen to the birds and watch the sunset. I can’t do that (yet). I won’t see blossoms or buds for another month, and the city will be mucky and slushy and dirty until that time. Enjoy the view for me.

This is what I decided to have a glass of tonight.

It’s nothing special, but for me, it reminds me of the place I get to go every year – Verona. Sadly, there will be no trip to Verona for me this year, and no exploring the lands of Prosecco before or afterwards. So I’ll have a glass, and likely even make it an Aperol Spritz…not that I can enjoy being with friends while I sip it, or sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy it, but I’ll think of all the amazing times I DID sit outside and sip one, and it was usually among friends.

Wherever you are, whether you’re alone or with a loved one, here’s to you: stay safe, and remember that we will get through this together. #andratuttobene


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