Recipe for a perfect day: a great wine made by a great friend, with a great steak

Sometimes the best meals are the simplest. Yesterday it was a beautiful day after weeks of rain and I was working in my artichoke garden when my wife asked what we should have for lunch.

“What do you think about grilling a steak?”

Especially because I usually do the grilling, she obviously agreed!

Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks about grilling steaks from my friend Dario Cecchini, the legendary butcher in Panzano in Chianti. The most important of all is after searing the steak on both sides to prop it up and let it cook on the bone. And after you take it off the grill, give it a generous dose of extra-virgin olive oil and coarse sea salt.

I’m getting hungry again just thinking about it! We say in Italian fa venire l’acquolina in bocca, which is like saying “it makes my mouth water”.

Of course there is no great steak without a great wine, which is why I opened this bottle of Syrah made in Volterra by my friend Andrea Rossi at his micro winery. Small in size maybe, but big in quality.

On your next sunny day I wish you a great steak with a great bottle!


reviewing wines from home

This year for Slow Wine instead of visiting the wineries, we’re doing the tastings from home and interviewing the winemakers through …. Zoom… of course!

I thought it would be totally disappointing to taste wines in my office, but this Brunello di Montalcino 2015 brought a smile to my face… and made my day. Artful liquid joy.

If you need to have a better day, try a glass of Brunello di Montalcino 2015 – it is a great remedy. Just what the doctor ordered.

I can’t share these tasting notes until the wine guide is published in the autumn, but I can share with you that there will be many well-deserved glowing reviews for this year.

La Massa – unforgettable IGTs in the heart of Chianti

The best of Made in Italy: great wines made in a Ferrari-inspired cellar
with Francesco Bufalini in the cellar of La Massa

What serendipity it was to discover Fattoria La Massa, just outside of Panzano in Chianti. The winery is owned by Giampaolo Motta, a Neapolitan transplanted to Tuscan lands, bringing with him the Elegance and Passion that only Naples can give. Giampaolo has an extraordinary team of collaborators – we spent the whole morning with Francesco Bufalini, an agronomist whose immense passion for his work is matched by his intimate knowledge of every rock and blade of grass on the property. Together they work to enact a vision that is as pure as it is rare: to produce a wine that creates itself.

This of course does not mean less work for the team, but perhaps more…

At La Massa they verge on fanatical in their focus on the right clones to plant, the analysis of every inch of their soil, tracking the slightest variations in their microclimates every day of the year, selecting individual grapes come harvest time…. and if you really do all of this with your heart and soul, once the grapes have been pressed and are in the cellar, there is not much left to “create”. It is just time to “play” with how to maximize your harmony with the right blends and the right wood. The end result of all of this work simply leaves no room for criticism.

La Massa produces two incredible wines (though a single-varietal sangiovese is on its way): La Massa and Giorgio Primo.

Though each with their own distinct personality, these two wines share the common trait of being magnificent expressions of their land, or rather of their terroir. They bloom in your mouth and dance on your palate, painting images in your mind’s eye that are hard to forget.

Thanks are due to La Massa for these beautiful wines, courageous IGTs in the heart of the Chianti Classico DOCG, that must surely leave their neighboring wines with a smack of jealousy.

Vino & Musica

Vino e musica
Vino e musica

I due grandi enologi Roberto Cipresso (chitarra blues di Montalcino)e Axel Heinz (chitarra classica di Ornellaia) commenteranno con le note delle loro chitarre, e a parole, alcuni vini della zona. Una serata da non perdere, unica nel suo genere. Per gli amanti di vino e musica. Saranno poi posti in degustazione altri 8 vini delle terre degli etruschi, presentati dal gruppo di Carlo Zucchetti. Roberto Cipresso presentera’ nell’arco della serata i suoi libri. Un’evento che permettera’ agli appassionati di conoscere di persona questi due grandi attori del vino nel mondo, nel contesto magico del borgo di Mazzolla.

Two great enologists – Roberto Cipresso (coming with his blues guitar from Montalcino) and Axel Heinz (with his classical guitar from Ornellaia) – will comment on locally-produced wines with the strings of their guitars as well as their words. A unique and sensual commentary – and unforgettable experience not to be missed. An evening for lovers of music and wine. in addition to the local wines, 8 wines from the land of the Etruscans will also be tasted thanks to the participation of Carlo Zucchetti of Divino Etrusco. During the evening Roberto Cipresso will also present his innovative and evocative books on wine.

The event will be held at 9 pm on Tuesday June 18th in the wine-cellars of Villa Viti, in the magical hamlet of Mazzolla, just outside of Volterra. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to meet these two big-names in the Italian wine world as they bring musical creativity and improvisation to the tasting of wine. Divino indeed!

Benvenuto Brunello 2013

Image135 producers participated at Benvenuto Brunello this year. An impossible feat to try them all, but impossible to resist the temptation to at least try! In the beautiful setting of Palazzo Pieri and the courtyard of the museum, there were flowing rivers of one of the world’s most important wines, sipped and analyzed by journalists, sommeliers and importers of every ilk and origin.

The morning was spent with my friend Roberto Cipresso, one of Italy’s greatest enologists and philosophers on wine, bouncing along the dirt roads of his winery La Fiorita. A great way to clear the mind and prepare the soul for an afternoon dedicated to contemplating the latest vintages of Brunello di Montalcino and its pious cousin of lesser fame, Moscadello di Montalcino. I am in awe of the saintly vintners who still produce this delicious nectar…

The vintage of Brunello Annata on preview was 2008. I have to admit that it did not elicit an enthusiastic response from me, so I won’t dwell too long on it. For those, like myself, who love Sangiovese with great body, strong acidity and important tannins, the ’08 is just not for us. For a Brunello it is surprisingly ready-to-drink, heavily fruity, almost fluffy.

The Brunello Riserva available for the first time was the 2007, and here the tune changes. Still on a musical note, you could almost say that the Riserva ’07 is a shockingly harmonious mix of Chopin’s elegance and the intense rage of Heavy Metal. It is a vintage with an absolute elegance that is already discernible, and yet can easily be aged for decades.

I was particularly impressed by La Fiorita’s ’07 Riserva, produced in only 6,000 bottles. Other producers who continue to create standard-bearing vintages are Franco Pacenti of Canalicchio, La Togata and Mastrojanni. I really enjoyed Siro Pacenti’s ’07, and found La Gerla’s Riserva degli Angeli simply divine. Also of note were the ’07s of Canalicchio di Sopra and Caprili. An excellent year as well for Capanna, which produces what I consider to be Montalcino’s very best Moscadello, and for  Agostina Piero, that indomitable woman who produces a Rosso di Montalcino that gives most Brunellos a run for their money.

Leaving behind the din & clatter of the tasting rooms, I went to visit my friends at Il Greppo, where we previewed the Rosso and the Brunello. Here the Brunello won out, but in my opinion the ’08 Biondi Santi is not a true Biondi Santi…. of high calibre, no doubt, but the acidity and power that Biondi-Santi lovers are used to simply weren’t there in this vintage. Those with palates that prefer ready wines and greater subtlety will be happy.

And to finish the day off with a bang, we visited my friend Giacomo Neri to try this year’s masterpieces. The ’08 Casanova di Neri Brunellos have their characteristic fruitiness and softness, and the Brunello Tenuta Nuova and Brunello Cerretalto both brought tears to my eyes. Divine. No other words can describe them. If God drank wine he would no doubt be a regular visitor to the cellar of Giacomo Neri.

Chianti Classico Collection, Stazione Leopolda 2012

After 3 hours of tasting the latest vintage of Chianti Classico (and some Riserva) at  the Stazione Leopolda in Florence, it is really hard to decide which wine is better then another. What I can say is that the quality of Chianti Classico is finally very high for most wine producers. Highlights? Well…Le Porte di Vertine is simply superb. Terrabianca from Radda in Chianti is probably my favorite, and the Castello di Monsanto from Barberino Val d’Elsa is incredible… (this is one of the few times that I completely agree with Wine Spectator’s ratings…in particular for the Riserva 2008 from Castello di Monsanto).

Another very good wine is from Tenuta di Arceno, where Lawrence Cronin, the enologist, makes a very intense Chianti Classico.

Francesco Gronchi

life is too short to drink bad wine