La Porta di Vertine in the U.S.

A blog devoted to La Porta di Vertine in the U.S.

best wine shop new york city

Above: Acclaimed American wine writer Mike Steinberger has called Chambers St. Wines in lower Manhattan “the Greatest Wine Retailer in America.”

Here’s the funny thing about the wine trade.

Some of the meanest, ugliest, snobbiest, condescending people you’ll ever meet work in the wine profession. Yet it’s also the métier claimed by some of the nicest, most pleasant and beautiful people you’ll ever encounter.

When you step into Chambers St. Wines in lower Manhattan on (yes) Chambers St., you quickly realize that you are surrounded by some of the most affable, informed, and lovely persons in the business.

It’s hard to put your finger on it, but there’s a wonderful snob-free atmosphere of congeniality and excitement on the floor of this tidy shop, where the buyers specialize in organically and biodynamically farmed wines and low sulfur wines, mostly from Europe but with a smattering of “new world” growers who subscribe to wholesome winemaking.

Walking into some wine shops in New York City can be a somber affair: At many of the city’s top retail destinations, the team members often appear as if they had just walked off the set of the “Walking Dead.”

To many urban wine sellers, it sometimes seems, the art of hawking wine is about as interesting as propagating a saliva-borne plague that could quite possibly eliminate humanity.

At Chambers, you immediately sense a greater sense of broader purpose and shared mission. It’s all about selling wine, of course. But the staff’s contagious enthusiasm — it’s clear — reflects an overarching desire to make the world a better place by turning clients on to wines that make them feel good inside and out.

Maybe it’s because the owners’ make wine education a priority for their clients and staff (you’ll find a regularly updated calendar of events, seminars, and tastings on the landing page of the shop’s website).

Or maybe it’s because the world of natural and natural-leaning wines, like the ones regularly stocked there, attracts a more convivially minded and catholic (with a lowercase c) crowd.

We really can’t say. The only thing we know for sure is that we are proud to be included in Chambers St. Wines’ offerings.

2012 La Porta di Vertine Chianti Classico is currently in stock at Chambers St. Wines. Be sure also to check out the shop’s blog and e-letter by visiting its website.

bartolomeo bimbi painter

Above: “37 Uve” (“37 Grape Varieties”) by Tuscan naturalist painter Bartolomeo Bimbi (1648-1729). The painting was executed nearly 100 years after the publication of the passage below and was commissioned by Cosimo III de’ Medici. The author of the below passage visited Tuscany when Cosimo II ruled the “Dukes State of Tuscany.” The painting resides at the Medici Villa Poggio a Caiano and was part of a series of paintings commissioned by Cosimo III to document the agricultural products of Tuscany.

Today’s post comes from ante litteram Italian wine blogger Sir Robert Dallington (1561-1637).

“As writer, traveler, courtier, and pioneer of taste Sir Robert Dallington made a largely unacknowledged contribution to the culture and thought of Elizabethan and Stuart England. He had an unusual and successful career: The poor Northamptonshire village boy who was to become the respected counselor of two royal princes, Henry and Charles. No satisfactory account of his life and work exists, since apart from a brief and incomplete entry in the Dictionary of National Biography all we have are a few scattered notices of his books” (“Sir Robert Dallington (1561-1637): Author, Traveler, and Pioneer of Taste” by Karl Josef Holtge).

In 1605, Dallington published A Survey of the great Dukes State of Tuscanie [sic], an account of his trip to Tuscany in 1596 (he accompanied his pupil, Roger the 5th Earl of Rutland, a member of the Manners family, “wealthy landowners, courtiers, connoisseurs, and travelers,” on Roger’s grand tour of Italy, France, and Germany).

In it, he devotes a few passages to descriptions of grape growing and winemaking, including the one that I have transcribed below.

I wanted to share it here to give readers a sense of the radical differences between Tuscan viticulture before the industrial era and the present era.

A few weeks ago, we posted a couple of excerpted translations from an agriculture survey published in Italy in 1882 (here and here).

As those documents reveal, by the end of the nineteenth century, grape growers and winemakers had grubbed up many of their vineyards and, following Baron Ricasoli’s lead, had replanted predominantly to Sangioveto (Sangiovese).

But until that time — I believe — viticulture in Tuscany was widely varied and not focused on the production of fine wine, as Dallington recounts in the passage below. I hope you find it as fascinating as I do.

I have introduced modern spelling and punctuation for clarity’s sake but have retained some of the Elizabethanisms where possible.

*****

From “A Survey of the great Dukes State of Tuscanie,” by Sir Robert Dallington, 1605, folio 32.

The Vine, which without comparison is the greatest commodity of Tuscany, if not of Italy, hath these uses. Of the Grape they feed, of the juice they make Wine; of the shreddings they make small bundles, like our Fagots of Gaule in Cambridge, and sell them for two quatrini a piece for firing; of their leaves they feed their Oxen or else dung their land; and lastly of the stones they feed their Pigeons, which after the Vintage they riddle out of the Grape being dried, and these they sell at 20 soldi the Staio [sextary].

There are diverse sorts of Grapes, the names of such as I remember are these: Uva Canaiola, good either to eat or for Wine; Passerina, a small Grape, whereof Sparrowes feed [hence the name, from passero, Ital. for sparrow], good only for Wine; Trebbiana, the best sort of white Grapes for Wine, whereof they make their Vin Trebbiano; Zibibbo, these are dried for Lent; Moscatella with a taste like Musk, not for Wine for to eat; Uva grossa, not to eat but for Wine; Raverutta, of itself neither to eat nor for Wine but a few of these put among a great vessel of Wine, giveth it a color, for which use it only serveth; San Columbana and Rimaldesca a very delicate Grape, either for Wine or to eat; Lugliola which hath his name for the month of July wherein in is ripe, better to eat than for Wine; and lastly Cerisana, named for the taste it hath like a Cherry, better for Wine than to eat.

raw natural wine fair london 2015

Ever since its founding in 2011, the annual RAW Artisan Wine Fair in London has become one of the not-be-missed-dates on the organic, biodynamic, and natural wine calendars.

This year alone, nearly 200 wineries have signed on to attend, including some of the biggest names in the category.

One of the coolest things about the fair for lovers of Italian natural wine is that it doesn’t take place during Vinitaly like the Italian natural wine fairs.

As a result, fair-goers get to taste one of the biggest and most representative selections of natural wines from Italy in the world.

It’s a great fair and La Porta di Vertine will be there.

RAW Artisan Wine Fair
London
May 17-18
click here for details and registration

Here’s the short version of the RAW manifesto:

RAW is a two-day celebration of some of the best wine talent in the world. Featuring over 150 growers, RAW is one of the most exciting collections of fine, natural, organic and biodynamic wine artisans ever to come together in the capital. Their wines are pure, kind to the planet, very possibly better for your health and best of all they’re absolutely delicious.

RAW is leading the charge for transparency. We believe that in an ideal wine world, any processing and additives will be clearly communicated to the drinker so that you know exactly what is in your glass. RAW is a first step in this direction – we will clearly list all additives and processing on both the website and fair catalogue. We are proud to be leading the way.

RAW is committed to empowering all wine drinkers through real, informed choice. RAW is unprocessed. It is about truth, authenticity and frank wine talking, but most of all it’s about showcasing really good wine.

Image via the RAW Facebook.

panzano in chianti

Above: The view from Panzano in Chianti.

I’ve spent the better part of my day reading up on all the literature devoted to the origins of the place name Chianti.

Chianti is what is known in toponomastics (the study of place names) as a choronym (Greek for chorus name), in other words, a place name that refers to a number of different places in the same general area.

In the early twentieth century, two theories as to its origins emerged.

On the one hand, scholars have speculated that it came from the Etruscan clante or clanti (the Etruscans were the ancient people who inhabited Italy before the rise of the Roman Empire).

It means step son, god son, or adoptive son in Etruscan. In turn, it comes from the Etruscan clan which means son.

The other theory, which few take seriously, is that it comes from the Latin clango, meaning to clang. The idea would be that Chianti got its name from the sound of cowbells worn by the ubiquitous livestock there — a thesis nearly impossible to support and easily discredited.

But after enough digging around the internets, I found the site of Massimo Pittau, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Etruscan language and the history of the Italian language.

He has proposed that Chianti comes from the Etruscan Ciante, which was pronounced kee-ahn-teh in the ancient language.

Although no one knows its original meaning, it is a well-documented aristocratic family name that can be found in at least two major inscriptions in Tuscany from the Etruscan era.

Because we know that the Etruscans grew grapes and made wine in Chianti, writes Pittau on his website, it’s highly probable that the Ciante family owned vineyards there.

Philology is and has always been an inexact science. And as with any etymological research, it’s practically impossible to arrive at a definitive, water-tight answer.

But Pittau’s theory seems — at least to me, a trained philologist myself — the most tenable.

In my view, the value of this type of research is not the final answer but rather the process that leads to an answer — even when there is none.

Thanks for reading…

Just a note to thank everyone who took time out to stop by our stand in the Vivit pavilion at Vinitaly this year!

We had a great fair and it was fantastic to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

That’s Jacy Farrell (below, left), La Porta di Vertine’s general manager, and La Porta di Vertine winemaker Giacomo Mastretta (right).

Thank you and looking forward to seeing you next year!

jacy farrel wine tuscany giacomo mastretta

Taste with Giacomo and La Porta di Vertine in the Vivit pavilion at Vinitaly, March 22-25.

Here are the coordinates: Hall 12 A5-D6-40 (Hall 12 is the Vivit pavilion).

LA PORTA DI VERTINE WILL BE SHOWING ITS WINES ON ALL FOUR DAYS OF THE FAIR, SUNDAY MARCH 22 THROUGH WEDNESDAY MARCH 25.

giacomo mastretta best chianti

Whenever even the most seasoned tasters sit down to taste with winemaker Giacomo Mastretta, whether at Vinitaly or wherever, they are often surprised to learn that the first wine he pours is his Rosato, a rosé from Sangiovese.

They’re even more surprised that there is a long tradition of rosé from Sangiovese in Tuscany. Few still make it today, aside from a handful of iconic producers who love keeping this delicious tradition alive.

Here’s what leading Italian wine professional and sommelier Fabio Panci had to say about Giacomo’s rosato on Luciano Pignataro’s popular wine blog, where he is a frequent contributor of tasting notes:

I confess I was bewitched first by the fruit notes of this wine on the nose, raspberry in particular. They were followed by a delicate floral note as well as clean notes of spice in the finish. In the mouth, the surprises continued with a warm initial impression balanced by excellent freshness and by an incredible lingering character that make this wine almost meaty and fleshy and extremely enjoyable.