We have officially entered 2021 and we all hope for a better year and for the pandemic to slowly fade away. We need a lot of positive vibes and push ourselves to get into the right positive mindset. Wine can be a good way of finding the right mood. Come with us in the Italian food, Wine, and Travel Group where we delve deeper into Favorite Italian Reds or Whites for 2021.
Can wine be a part of our mental as well as general wellness? Well, I believe it has shown during the last year how it has become a part of our daily life and occupies its historical ad natural place as an aliment. In the article, Should Wine Be Among Your Health Resolutions? in New York Times, Erik Asimov discusses how all talk about ‘clean’ wine has made it attractive also to those who take their health and wellness seriously.
However, clean wine is not as ‘clean’ as many may think and perhaps, or probably, more ‘conventional’ and ‘dirty’ than many of the conventional wines even. Felicity Carter called ‘clean’ wine a scam in The Guardian back in August 2020. Felicity stresses that as winemakers are not required to list the ingredients in their wines on the labels, it has paved the way for “opportunists chasing a piece of the […] wellness market”. Therefore, the clean wine companies can list the ‘bad’ things that are not in their wines but they do not need to mention the things that the wines do contain. Also, now I am sticking out my neck here, but let’s face it, most ‘clean’ wines are probably sourced from conventional or bulk wine companies to be profitable.
Returning to the question of how wine can be part of our daily wellness, I believe that during 2020 and the pandemic wine indeed became important for our mental wellness. Not only as a way to feel good but also as a way to ‘socialize’ virtually as well as in our ‘small’ households of family or closest friends. I mean, how many times have we not said to ourselves during 2020, that if we cannot go out, travel, and meet people, then do not take away food and wine from us. Enjoying food and wine is a passion, a ‘nirvana’ all on its own. We can get back in shape post-Covid, but to endure a pandemic on water and salad…no way. LOL
In fact, Erik Asimov speculates that Dry January this year, 2021, might not be so dry but rather postponed until next year.
But even if abstinence is out in 2021, wine has joined the cluster of mental and physical health practices that are now referred to generally as “wellness.” Not in the sense that self-care requires inebriation, but in the suggestion that wine, like clothing or beauty products, can be pared of toxins and made “clean.”
This, of course, does not mean we should get wasted or drink 2 bottles of wine every day, but a glass or two of wine paired with good food can keep you sane in a period full of turbulence.
After all this talk in favor of wine for keeping ourselves mentally sane, it is time to look closer at some examples of excellent wine. What kind of wine enthusiast would I be if I did not give you some tips on wines to try?
3 Wines That Make You Dream Of Better Times
Here, I have chosen one white wine and two red wines that have helped to get me in a good mood during the last months.
A White Wine Loved by the Bourbon Royal Family
Pallagrello Bianco and Nero are grapes that recently have been rediscovered and re-evaluated in their native area around Caserta. Wine made with the Pallagrello grapes was, in fact, a favorite of the Bourbon king Ferdinand IV of the Kingdom of Naples. As Massimo Alois of Alois winery mentioned at Winesofitaly LiveStream on 2 December 2020, the Bourbon royal family decided to plant vineyards and grow grapes to make quality wine themselves in the 18th and 19th centuries. Massimo says that the most important vineyard of the Bourbons was Vigna del Ventaglio (the vineyard shaped like a folding fan) where two of the rows of vines were of Pallagrello Bianco and Pallagrello Nero.
Today, Alois winery close to Caserta is one of those wineries that started to look into and re-evaluate Pallagrello Bianco and Pallagrello Nero in the 1990s and early 2000s. The wine I opened on New Year's Eve together with friends was their Morrone Terre del Volturno IGT Pallagrello Bianco 2018. It is their white cru wine that is fermented in steel tanks then one-third of the juice stays on the lees in oak barrels for 9 months. Thereafter, the wine matures for one year in the bottle.
It is a smooth, rich, and elegant wine where you indeed feel the volcanic soil with both its notes and taste of ashes. Massimo explained that it is a volcanic soil containing ashes that spread and fell down as a result of the eruption of Campi Flegrei 39 000 years ago. It is a mineral wine with wonderful freshness, notes of citrus fruits, a herby, green touch such as of camomille, a bit spicy undertone. A wine that was perfect to get in the New Year mood.
A Red Wine from the Slopes of Vesuvio
We are staying in Campania to get more good vibes and get into the right mindset for 2021. As you might have noticed, I am talking a lot about Campania lately because I think it is an amazing wine region that is highly underrated. It is such a multifaceted region with many different micro-areas and micro-climates where they make first-class wines. It is a region with four DOCGs of which three are in the Irpinia area.
Here, I will talk about a red wine that fascinated me at the first sip, namely Don Vincenzo Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio Doc Riserva 2015. The first thing both Letizia and me said was ‘terra bruciata’ after having taken the first sip of this red wine. Indeed, you feel the presence of the volcanic soil and a bit of sulfur undertone. This in combination with notes of red fruit, such as cherry, a floral touch, shrub herbs, spicy, minerality.
Casa Setaro is a family winery owned by Massimo Setaro and run together with his wife Maria Rosaria and their two children. I visited them in September 2020 as part of the Campania Stories tour and thus got a closer look at their vineyards and wine cellar. The space in the Trecase area on the slopes of Vesuvio is quite cramped and our driver was very good at navigating and finding his way around there. At Casa Setaro, they have a part of the vineyards just next to the house and the small parking lot. The wine cellar is located below the family house. All with a view of Vesuvius in the background.
At our visit, they took us on a tour of the winery and the vineyard where we had a close up look at the Piedirosso vines. Here Massimo explained how they had drawn the offshoot underground from the mother vines to have a direct connection and help the new plants to develop roots.
Casa Setaro makes wines with a strong local identity on the slopes of Vesuvius that are each and every one of them very special.
Pinot Nero from a Hidden Corner of Tuscany
Casentino in the southeastern part of Tuscany, close to Arezzo, is an area that until recently has not been known for wine production. It is an area with a bit of wilder nature that borders Romagna. However, in recent years it has become a new emerging wine area in Tuscany known mainly for the production of high-quality Pinot Noir wines.
Ornina Winery of Marco Biagioli and Greta Tizzanini is located in the Casentino area. It is a biodynamic winery where they focus mainly on Sangiovese and Pinot Noir. Marco started playing around at the farm of his father in 2008 while he was still working for other wineries, for example in Montalcino. His first wine was Trigono that is a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, and Ciliegiolo.
Ornoir is their Pinot Noir that I will talk about here. They started to produce Ornoir in 2016 and it has a very particular personality. Ornoir 2017 that I tasted during the WinesOfItaly LiveStream is a fresh, savory, mineral red wine with deep notes of ripe fruit combined with the herby and forest notes (mint) that comes out after a while and that is so typical for the Pinot Nero at Ornina. The 2016 vintage, that I tasted earlier last summer was a bit fresher and elegant, smooth, with lots of mint and eucalyptus at the nose.
Ornina is a small winery that takes sustainability and biodynamic farming seriously. They try to have as little interference as possible in the wines they make. Definitely, a winery to visit on your next trip to Tuscany.
Try and find the wines, taste them and let me know then what you think about them.
Read the articles of the others in our group…
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm will be featuring A Lovely Bottle of Taurasi paired with a Delicious Meal of Beef Tips Marsala.
- Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles serves up Bacon and Butternut Pasta with a Langhe DOC Nebbiolo.
- Susannah at Avvinare will be Taking a Closer Look at Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
- Camilla at the Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be Capping off the Old Year with Cappelleti in Brodo + G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2016.
- Lynn at Savor the Harvest will showcase how Lagrein Reigns in Alto Adige.
- Terri at Our Good Life is cooking up An Italian favorite: Chianti Classico with Baked Salmon and Stuffed Mushroom Caps.
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass asks What If You Could Blend Your Own Pinot Grigio?
- Li at The Wining Hour will be Keeping it Fresh and Fun with Fiano.
- Cindy at Grape Experiences will bring us on A Return to Piemonte with Marenco Scrapona Moscato d’Asti 2019 and Bagna Cauda.
- Gwendolyn at Wine Predator will be Going with Lugana.
- Katarina at Grapevine Adventures will be sharing 3 Wines to Get 2021 off on the Right Foot.
- Jen, our host, at Vino Travels is Starting the New Year off Right with Chianti Classico.