Category: Bele Casel

Snail award: Bele Casel once again wins coveted Slow Wine prize.

The Snail Award has become one of the Italian wine world’s most prestigious prizes.

Last week we learned that the Slow Food international foodways movement as once again awarded our winery its top prize.

Slow Food was established in Italy in the late 1980s by founder Carlo Petrini to counter the “fastfoodization” of Italy.

In 1986, after one of the world’s leading chains of fast food restaurants opened a franchise at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome (the Trinità del Monte as it is known in Italian), Petrini decided that he had to do something to organize opposition. It’s not hard to imagine, btw, which fast food company it was. And it was and is a complete eyesore in what is otherwise considered the most beautiful city in the world.

In what proved to be a true stroke of genius, he called his nascent movement the “slow food” movement: Not only does the name evoke the association’s ethos but its symbol and mascot — the snail — is literally the embodiment of the association’s mission and purpose.

The little animal moves slowly through the vineyards and avoids those where pesticides have been used.

The Slow Wine guide has been published each year since the late 2000s. And it’s become — hands down — the most important guide to the wines of Italy in the world. It’s also translated into English each year.

According to its editors, the top prize goes to wineries that balance respect for the environment and sustainable farming with high-quality wines that remain affordable to everyday people. We couldn’t be more thrilled to be the recipient, yet again, this year. It’s a great club to belong to. On 10 percent or so of the wineries included in the guide receive this top prize. It’s really meaningful to us.

Thank you, Slow Wine! We are proud to be a snail!

Fiorella in San Francisco: A casual Italian with a kick-ass wine list!

Fiorella is a humble, casual Italian restaurant, write the owners on their website. But Fiorella’s wine program is world-class stuff!

Boris Nemchenok, one of the principal partners at Fiorella in San Francisco, is a veteran of the Italian food and wine industry in the United States, having worked on both coasts and at some of the highest-profile Italian restaurants in the country (including a stint at the legendary Otto in Lower Manhattan, Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich’s pizzeria, just a stone’s throw from Washington Square).

At Fiorella, one of his latest projects (one of many), he and his team have put together a fantastic selection of casual Italian comfort food, ranging from Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas (traditional and creative), “Nono’s meatballs,” “Supplì al Telephono,” Cacio e Pepe (one our favorites), and countless other riffs on classic Italian cooking.

It’s the type of restaurant that’s so casual and so yummy that they encourage you to order to-go. (It’s incredible to think about how Italian food has become such a part of the American gastronomic canon that you can have Cacio e Pepe delivered to your home! In another era, the only types of food you could get delivery for were Asian — the iconic white boxes — and American-style pizza.)

But the thing that makes this place so unique and so extraordinary, frankly, is the awesome wine list, which features a fantastic selection of white wines from Campania and a Nebbiolo offering that reflects the owners’ predilection for old-school Barolo. Honestly, with mouth-watering homey comfort food like theirs and a wine list that looks more like the kind you’d find in a small town in Piedmont (and not in urban San Francisco), you really can’t go wrong.

We are so proud to be part of this superb program.

Fiorella
2339 Clement St.
San Francisco CA 94121
(415) 340-3049
Google map

Image via the Fiorella Facebook.

Radici (Washington, D.C.), thank you for sharing our wines with your customers!

Radici, one of America’s great independent Italian wine and food markets, Washington, D.C.

As wine has become more and more popular in the United States thanks to the new generation of wine-savvy Americans and the many new wineries and wines — domestic and foreign — that are finding their way to more and more American markets, wine has become BIG BUSINESS there.

And sadly, more and more, wine retail in the U.S. has come to be dominated by so-called “big box” stores that have the ability to buy wine in extremely large quantities, thus driving down the end-user price.

That’s great news for consumers. And we are all for competitive pricing.

But one of the side-effects of this phenomenon is that it has become increasingly challenging for independent (and independently minded) wine and food shops to compete with the big box stores. As a result, it seems like there are fewer shops that specialize in wines like ours: Family-grown, sustainably farmed wines that reflect local traditions and not trends in the wine industry.

That’s just one of the reasons we were so thrilled to learn that Radici in Washington, D.C. carries our wines. As their name reveals (radici, meaning “roots” in Italian), they are devoted to wholesome, artisanal Italian foods and wines that reflect authentic Italian foodways. We couldn’t be bigger fans of their shop nor could we be bigger advocates for their mission: Connecting Italian wine and food lovers with real Italian wines and food that express the places where they are made and the people who make them.

Thank you, Radici, for everything you do! And thanks for supporting our wines!

Radici
303 7th St SE, Washington, DC 20003
(202) 758-0086
Google map

Image via the Radici Facebook page.

Rainfall in July made us hold our breath! Prosecco Diaries

Rainfall, when heavy, can wash away a year’s worth of work in the blink of an eye.

July was a warm and particularly dry month that kept us holding our breath. We were very fortunate: The month’s heavy rainstorms only did limited damage in our vineyards.

Being a grape grower means being conscious of the fact that a year’s worth of work could be washed away in just an instant. This is why every time there is a forecast for rainfall, our anxiety levels climbs and everything in our family’s life comes to a halt. We all hold our breath until the worst has past.

July 1 – We need to manage the vegetation. It becomes a problem when a plant falls on a vine following inclement weather.

cura del territorio

July 2 – Today is our Fiat 500’s 60th birthday! 60 years since this popular car was introduced, a symbol of the economic revival in Italy after World War II.

fiat cinquecento asolo prosecco

July 6 – OpenDream was an art, culture, food and wine festival in Treviso. They used an abandoned industrial space for the event.

area ex pagnossin treviso prosecco

July 7 – Tilling our Prà Grande vineyard in Monfumo.

fresatura vigna bio asolo bele prà grande

Speaking of the anxiety that comes when there are rainclouds on the horizon, an awful storm literally grazed the hill where we have our vineyard in Cornuda. The photo comes via Meteo Bassano e Pedemontana del Grappa.

grandine prosecco

July 12 – Labels for magnums of our Extra Dry are always applied by hand.

etichette a mano prosecco extra dry docg

July 13 – It’s not just about vines! One of the important things about “zero kilometer” foodways is teaching future generations about the importance of the land. Just like our parents and grandparents taught us. It’s thanks to them that we are here today to tell our story.

non solo vigna

July 17 – As our friend Camillo likes to say: There’s a difference between Prosecco with a capital P and prosecchino. Only a fool would think otherwise. (Pure, playful, confident, and ready to go. A beauty!)

colfondo bele casel

July 24 – The sky over Monfumo after the umpteenth storm.

cielo monfumo

July 28 – Today’s harvest was celery, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers from our garden.

orto biologico

July 31 – Save the date! FIVI Wine Fair in Piacenza November 25-26.

mercato fivi bele casel

Acidity levels help us to understand the wines we will make this vintage

Acidity levels are key to understanding when to pick which grapes.

This post was published last week before harvest began. Our English-language blog master was unable to translate it promptly because of hurricane Harvey which affected Houston, the city where he lives. We apologize for the delay.

It’s time to share our first impressions of this year’s vintage for the production of our Prosecco Asolo Superiore DOCG.

It’s been a hot and dry year but fortunately our vines haven’t been overly impacted. Even our vineyard in Cornuda has entered into the “adult” production phase, as you can see in the illustration below. The older a vine is and the deeper its roots, the more it manages to perform in difficult vintages like this one.

Yesterday [August 27] we began picking berries in different parts of the vineyard. And we then analyzed their sugar and acidity levels to determine the best time to pick the vineyard.

Glera

Cornuda: short rows, among our highest. The clone is Kober.
Acidity 7.9. We will begin harvesting early next week [current week].

vendemmia asolo docg

Cornuda, longer and lower-lying rows, the western part of the block. The clone is 420.
Acidity 8.9. In this case, we’ll need to wait a few days yet.

vendemmia asolo docg acidità

Cornuda, long and lower-lying rows, the eastern part of the block. The clone is Kober.
Acidity 8.9. Here again, we’ll have to wait for a few days before we begin picking.

vendemmia asolo prosecco

Marzemina bianca

Marzemina bianca, acidity 7.4. Definitely high-quality fruit. After sampling the berries and experimenting with vinification, we are convinced that we will be able to give our wines greater complexity with these grapes.

vendemmia prosecco asolo

Rabbiosa

Rabbiosa, acidity 16.5 This is definitely off the charts. It will probably take an extra 15-20 days to be able to manage such high acidity. For the moment, we’ll just take it one day at a time to decide when we should harvest this native grape of the Asolo hills.

vendemmia prosecco superiore

Here’s a video where some kids, with no experience at all, taste the must and tell us when we should pick the grapes.

Tramezzini, a classic Venetian finger food and a great pairing for Prosecco

Tramezzini are the Venetian version of what the English call “tea sandwiches” or “cucumber sandwiches.”

If you have ever spent any significant time in Venice, you know that one of the Venetians’ favorite foods is tramezzini: Little white bread sandwiches, filled with tuna and hard-boiled egg; prosciutto cotto and mozzarella; sautéed mushrooms and prosciutto cotto (always cotto, never crudo, by the way); mozzarella and tomato (a sort of Neapolitan twist); or our favorite, boiled little bay shrimp in a mayonnaise sauce.

Actually, the list of fillings goes on and on.

For example, in Padua’s famous Piazza delle Erbe, where they have an open market every day, they make tramezzini stuffed with shredded vegetables. (The Paduans are not Venetians, of course, but the Venetian tradition of tramezzini is popular throughout the Veneto region.)

And whether you are in Padua or Venice, the classic pairing for tramezzini is Prosecco. Just ask any Venetian! (Or Paduan.)

The word tramezzini has an interesting origin. It was coined by Fascist “purists” in the 1920s and 1930s who were trying to purge the Italian language of all foreign words, like the then popular sandwich, which had been borrowed from the English language. The word for sandwich was one of many that they devised so that Italians wouldn’t have to use borrowed words from other languages.

The Italian word comes from tra meaning between and mezzo meaning middle: in between the middle would be the literal translation.

In Italy, they cut the crust off like they do in England. But at the new Rossoblu in Los Angeles (photo above), where they serve our Colfòndo by the glass, they keep the crusts on. That doesn’t stop them from being utterly delicious and a wonderful pairing for our wines!

Congrats again to Rossoblu and a hearty Veneto thank you to them for continuing to support our wines! The food there is delicious, including the sandwiches!

Scarecrow in the vineyard: Sometimes the oldest and simplest methods are the best

Scarecrows are still highly effective, even in the time of modern technology and methods for discouraging animals from foraging in the vineyards.

This time of year is one of the most crucial and sensitive for any grape grower and winemaker. As harvest approaches, all of the year’s work, all of the year’s good or bad fortune, comes to bear. And in these final weeks (days, really) between now and the moment you begin picking the grapes, you’re entire year’s work is contained in those precious little yellow green berries on the vine (well, black and brown berries, if you are a red wine producer).

Now, more than ever, you have to do everything you can to protect your vines and their fruit from inclement weather, marauding animals who forage through your growing sites, and even people that may come and pick the grapes at night when no one is paying attention.

Even when there is no fruit hanging on a vine, animals can often enter into the vineyards and create havoc but messing with the stakes or the trellising, etc.

Today, there are so many methods based on modern technology for shooing away animals from the vineyard. Some of them do it by generating sounds or by generating reflections of light.

But when it comes to scaring away the proverbial “crows,” the tried, true, and trusted scarecrow is often a great solution for keeping unwanted visitors out of your vineyards.

We have dubbed this scarecrow “Bepi.” English-speakers and even Italian-speakers may not know that Bepi is not just a familiar and favorite diminutive or nickname around these parts. Bepi is also a name that immediately evokes humor and folklore. In fact, Bepi is often a character in jokes that people from Treviso and Veneto love to tell.

Well, this Bepi isn’t much of a joke teller but he sure makes for a great scarecrow! Just having a little fun in the vineyard, after all. Soon harvest will start and that’s when the real hard work begins!

Ombra de vin, a more probable etymology?

Above: an “ombra” of wine, a small glass shared in company.

Most believe that the Venetian word for a small glass of wine, ombra (literally shadow or shade in Italian and Venetian), comes from the fact that wine vendors used to park their stands in the shade during summer months.

“To keep their wines cool, they would move their stands following the shade of the bell tower,” wrote Durante and Turato in their 1975 etymological dictionary of Veneto and Italian.

They were referring to the famous bell tower in Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Campanile (pronounced KAHM-pah-NEE-leh).

But there is no definitive etymon (origin) for the common expression. And philologists have no evidence to support this claim. None of the many etymological dictionaries that I possess in my ample library even address its origin. And while there are many instances on the internets where writers evoke this folkloric etymology (including me), it’s unlikely that it’s correct, however appealing it may be.

In my research today, I discovered that the expression ombra de vin (small glass of wine) doesn’t begin to appear in enogastronomic literature until the 1970s. One of the earliest mentions (if not the earliest) is a reference to the popular Milan wine bar N’ombra de vin, which opened in the mid-1970s. Its presence undoubtedly bolstered the popularity of the expression outside Venice.

Some will remember Chino Ermarcora’s 1935 Vino all’ombra (wine in the shade), his “sentimental guide to the osterie [taverns] of Friuli, Trieste, and Istria.”

Its cover illustration depicts two men resting in the shadow of a tree with a jug of wine.

It’s only natural that we associate wine and shade for the obvious reasons.

But it’s important to keep in mind that ombra had a very distinct meaning in Venetian and Veneto: trifle, mere nothing, or minimal quantity. It’s meaning and usage are well documented in Venetian philology.

And the expression gnanca per ombra (slavishly, not even by shadow, akin to the Italian neanche per sogno, which we can translate loosely as not in my wildest dreams) was widely used as early as the eighteenth century, when it appeared countless times in the works of the hugely popular dramatist Carlo Goldoni, for example.

The locution is addressed in nearly every Venetian etymologic dictionary that I’ve been able to consult, including Giuseppe Boerio’s landmark dictionary, first published in 1827. It does not have an entry ombra de vin.

At least one Italian blogger agrees with me that trifle is a more probable explanation.

Why would the wine vendors move their stalls as the shadow cast by the bell tower moved? Why wouldn’t they simply park them in the shade to begin with?

In fact, Piazza San Marco is lined with porticos that offer protection from the sun (below).

Philology is an inexact science and rarely delivers definitive results. But look at all the fun we’ve had researching! I won’t end my quest here and will report back as soon as my work sheds new light on this conundrum (forgive the pun).

Keep in mind: the question of what wine you pour into your ombra is a much more important one…

piazza san marco portico

Image via Christian Ostrosky’s Flickr.

Our NEW Bianchetta vineyard!

bianchetta trevigiana monfumo

The history of Monfumo speaks for itself.
But it’s the Bianchetta Trevigiana grape that speaks the loudest.

It was this line of thought that inspired us to plant our new “Prà Grande” vineyard solely to this variety. It all began with a telephone call from a stranger who told us that there were 4,000 square meters of land for sale in our beloved Monfumo with five six rows of Bianchetta Trevigiana.

bianchetta trevigiana prà grandebianchetta monfumo prosecco asolo

We immediately called the owner and sealed the deal. That little patch of land became our own. The first harvest in September 2016 was on the lighter side and the vines didn’t do so well. They didn’t produce much fruit and some of the plants died. So we decided to grub it up and keep the two most healthy rows. And then we replanted in the spring of 2017.

nuova vigna monfumo bele casel

nuova vigna prà grande monfumo

vigna prà grande bele casel monfumo

bianchetta trevigiana prà grande monfumo asolo docg

vigna prà grande

The decision wasn’t the most prudent, financially speaking. But we were hopeful that if we worked hard enough, the gamble would pay off.

We had read that Bianchetta was once considered one of the best in Treviso province. Most had grubbed up their Bianchetta, according to historic sources, after the terrible frost of 1709. But until that time, it was considered one of the best wines.


bianchetta trevigiana prà grande

(Small grafted cuttings of Bianchetta)

fresatura vigna bio asolo bele prà grande

(Tilling)

zappatura vigna bio asolo

(Plowing and cleaning the cuttings)

The hard part is deciding what to do with these grapes.

Should we make a still wine?
Should we make a col fondo?
A pas dosé Martinotti method wine?

We’d love to hear your suggestions!

Weather patterns are increasingly erratic this year. But we’re okay.

Weather patterns have been so strange this year, with major surprises including late frost and intense, sudden rainfall.

All the old-timers agree: They’ve never seen anything like it.

Just ask any of the Prosecco growers from the generations of our parents and grandparents. The intense, erratic, and often suddenly changing climatic events are something that people in this part of Italy have never experienced before.

And this year has been particularly strange: Between a mild winter and early bud break, to the late and very severe spring frost that really threatened our crop, and now an extremely hot summer, with a prolonged heat wave and sudden intense rainfall… it’s enough to drive a grape grower crazy!

weather pattern prosecco

We were extremely fortunate with the late spring cold temperatures. We had some damage in the vineyards but luckily our vines managed to “repair” themselves. And in many ways, the spring freeze served as a sort of “green” harvest, whereby grapes are “dropped” to concentrate the flavors in the remaining fruit.

We really dodged a bullet back in the spring. But then last week, with very ripe fruit in the vineyards, we had two extreme climatic events — very, very heavy rainfall that came down violently, in two short bursts — that threatened our entire vintage, really.

But luckily we were spared. Maybe it’s the prayers of our friends in the U.S. that saved us! It sure feels like that.

No matter what you believe is the cause of climate change, there is no doubt that the climate is changing. And it’s not just the old folks who comment about this. Even in our lifetime (the current generation of Ferraro growers), we have seen an undeniable shift in patterns and the intensity and severity of events.

No matter what’s causing it, it’s time we do something about it.