Category: news

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.

Lou, one of our favorite wine shop in the U.S., features our wine

Lou wine shop in LA is one of the most progressive in California. We are proud to have our wines there.

Those of you who follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram probably already know that Paola has been touring the United States pouring and talking about our wines.

We were thrilled to learn that one of the best and most progressive wine shops in the country featured our wine in its weekly tasting this week.

It’s called Lou and it’s located in the Los Feliz area of the city.

It’s owned and run by Lou Amdur.

Besides being the nicest guy, Lou is also considered to be one of the leading experts on organically farmed wines in the United States today.

Yesterday, on his excellent blog, he devoted a post to his thoughts on Prosecco and Prosecco Colfòndo.

We highly recommend it to you.

In it, he writes: the “old school, rustic” Proseccos “are made the way Prosecco was before the rise of the industrial, deracinated stuff. Prosecco ‘Colfòndo’ (with the yeast) referments in bottle, and you’ll see the evidence of this as a bit of cloudy yeast sediment in these wines. The presence of yeast is key here, as it adds texture that you just don’t get with the soda pop stuff, as well as autolytic flavors that bring Prosecco Colfòndo a little closer to Champagne. Yet, lest you think I am asking you to open your wallet wide and shake it at me, Prosecco Colfòndo is still a bargain, rarely rising above $20 a bottle.”

That’s just part of the post and again, we highly recommend that you check it out.

We couldn’t be more thrilled that Lou included our Prosecco Colfòndo in his weekly tasting and that he carried the wine in his shop.

More and more, we’re seeing that Americans appreciate the hard work we put into creating wines that are wholesome expressions of our appellation. Lou is an expert, of course. And we couldn’t be more happy that he has shared our wine with his clientele.

Thank you, Lou!

Prosecco Diaries March 2016: New stakes for the vineyards

This year, unlike last year, we finished pruning early. And so we concentrated on other work we needed to do in the vineyards, like the replacement of dead vines, replacement of broken or crooked stakes, and work on the trellises.

In terms of the swelling up of the buds, we definitely late with respect to 2014 (roughly 10-15 days later) and 2015 (just a couple of days).

March 3 – A new project is underway. In a few months, we will have a new head stake for our vineyards that is truly unique.

palo testata vigna prosecco

March 3 – The skies are ablaze!

luci asolo docg

March 11 – Is there anything more beautiful to see that flowers that bloom between the rows?

monfumo fiori

March 15 – Planting vines in our vineyards in Cornuda.

pianto vite prosecco

March 15 – The first signs of spring in Monfumo.

primule asolo docg

March 16 – With the backdrop of Mount Grappa (a mountain that holds a sacred place in Italian history), the famous Canova Temple (located in Passagno, designed in the early 19th century by the famous sculptor Antonio Canova) and our super Cinquecento.

fiat 500

March 21 – They say that the grape grower’s master is the sky. We head home because of a sudden and unexpected rainstorm.

vita da vignaioli

March 23 – Our work in the vineyard continues. We have finished replacing the head stakes with stakes taken from our woods.

pali testata

March 24 – New life in the Asolo DOCG.

nuova vita asolo docg

March 29 – The vines don’t really care about our worries and our fears. They continue to follow the rhythms of nature. The vines have been working for us for millennia. All they ask in return is a little bit of respect.

gemme asolo docg

Adam Japko, thank you for bringing your tour to Asolo and Monfumo!

Adam Japko brings his Design and Wine Tour to Asolo and Monfumo!

On Sunday of this week, the Ferraro family hosted a group of 30 interior designers and interior design-focused publishers who had come to the Veneto for Adam Japko’s Design and Wine Tour Italy 2016.

Adam is an American entrepreneur and publisher and an expert in social media and search engine optimization. And he’s also a fine wine connoisseur and a wine blogger.

The group, which included designers and publishers from across the United States, from Atlanta, New York, and Boston to Los Angeles, visited antiques show rooms in Venice and marble ateliers in Verona province.

But Adam also decided to take them “off the beaten path” for a visit to Asolo, where many famous artists and designers have lived over the centuries.

The wonderful Bojana Balic of Bellasolo, a tour operator that specializes in Asolo tours, led the group on a walking tour of the village. And despite the rainy whether, the guests were thrilled by the quaint town and its famed Ville Venete and gardens.

Following the walking tour, we took the group to the village of Monfumo where we ate lunch at the excellent Osteria alla Chiesa. It was a classic, long Sunday lunch in a rustic setting where the chef and owners of the osteria serve traditional dishes from the area with contemporary flourishes and touches.

Of course, the wine they drank was Bele Casel Colfòndo!

So many Americans come to the Veneto each year. They visit Venice, they visit Verona. They may even visit Padua and Vicenza.

But it’s not every day that a group like this — high-profile designers and publishers — comes to our little corner of the world.

Thank you, Adam, for letting us share our Italy and our Asolo with you and your lovely group!

Sopressa, the classic salami of the Veneto

Sopressa, one of the classic salamis of the Veneto and one of our favorites!

Sopressa is a classic aged salami of the Veneto (our region) that is made with pork, pork lard, salt, and pepper and sometimes other spices (depending on the culinary tradition and local variations).

Sopressa Vicentina, in other words, sopressa from the province of Vicenza, has actually been awarded DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) status by the European Union (in English, PDO or Protected Designation of Origin).

It’s a type of salami that can be made only by artisanal salami makers. And the DOP and the Consorzio di Tutela della Soprèssa Vicentina D.O.P (Consortium for the Safeguarding of Sopressa Vicentina) actually recognizes only four local producers of this type of salami. Unfortunately, because it is so popular among locals here in the Veneto, many commercial producers of charcuterie misleadingly label their salamis as sopressa even though they are not made according to the strict regulations of the DOP.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t many families, including farmers and winemakers, who make their own for eating at home (as long as you don’t sell it or advertise it as sopressa, it’s totally legal to make and eat at home).

Every year when the Bele Casel winery attends the Italian wine trade fair (Vinitaly, held each spring in Verona), the Ferraro family brings a salami with them to the event. During the long days of the fair, you barely have time to eat and so a slice of sopressa and a slice of breads, washed down with a glass of Bele Casel Prosecco Colfòndo, really hits the spot.

But it’s also something that they love to share with the scores of people that visit each to day to taste the new vintages and catch up. This year, the stand was so popular that the sopressa they brought the first day barely was enough! Luckily they commute to the fair and so were able to bring another for the next day.

Sopressa is just one of those great traditions of Italian gastronomy and hospitality. And it just takes SO GOOD! Especially after a long day of tasting and chatting with friends and colleagues at Vinitaly!

Verona: So much to see, do, and taste during Vinitaly

Verona is home to the Italian wine trade fair but it’s also a great place to visit!

Yes, it’s true that the entire world of Italian wine descends on Verona for the four days of Vinitaly, the Italian wine trade’s annual fair and gathering where thousands of professionals and consumers meet to taste and do business.

But the city is also one of Italy’s most beautiful and one of its most popular tourist destinations.

Verona is home, for example, to a Roman arena, one of the best preserved in the world, and still the site of all kinds of entertainment, from classic opera to rock and popular music concerts.

The nighttime stroll across the Piazza Bra, where the gorgeous arena is lit-up every night, is one of the most beautiful in Europe.

Verona is also home to Romeo and Juliet and Juliet’s famous balcony where she was once wooed by her lover in one of the world’s most celebrated and tragic love stories.

Even though the tale was made famous by Shakespeare in his beloved play, the story of Romeo and Juliet and their warring families had actually been a popular novella in Italy for nearly two centuries before the Bard from Stratford-on-Avon put it on the stage.

There’s also the Piazza delle Erbe, another one of the most beautiful sites in Europe. It was originally part of the Roman city but took its current appearance in the Renaissance when Verona was one of Italy’s most powerful cities and part of the Most Serene Republic of Venice.

These are just some of the great spots to visit while you are in town for the fair. And be sure not to miss the storied Bottega del Vino, one of the city’s most beloved eateries. It has retained the classic ambiance of an old-school Italian osteria and has excellent food and a wonderful wines by-the-glass list.

Rigid EU internet & marketing restrictions cause uproar among Italian winemakers

monforte alba barolo langhe piemonte

Above: Monforte d’Alba is a village in the “Barolo” appellation. It lies in the “Langhe” hills of the “Piemonte” region. EU regulations restrict a Monforte-based producer of Barolo from mentioning “Langhe” or “Piemonte” in online and other marketing materials because of a perceived conflict with the “Langhe” and “Piemonte” appellations.

A report today in the British daily The Independent describes a brewing controversy among Italian winemakers: rigid EU marketing regulations now restrict regional references that wineries can use online and in other printed marketing materials.

Earlier this year, a Barolo producer was fined after “he had mentioned in marketing material that his cellar was in the Langhe area of Piedmont, as well as being in the village that has given the red wine its name.”

In other words, because he had written “Langhe” and “Piemonte” in his promotional media, he was in violation of EU law: “Langhe” and “Piemonte” are both place names but they are also officially designated appellations in Europe — “Langhe DOC” and “Piemonte DOC.”

Even though the winery in question is located in the Langhe hills of Piedmont (Piemonte in Italian), the winemaker broke the rules by mentioning the place names somewhere in his marketing material.

The story was reported in the English-language media after Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini published an online editorial on the controversy last week. In the piece, he expresses his bewilderment in the face of such restrictive regulation and he offers his support to the Italian Federation of Independent Grape Growers and its call for civil disobedience.

In early October, the Federation published an open letter on its website denouncing the regulations and threatening to ask its more than 600 members to violate the regulations (if not already in violation) and then “self-report” the infraction.

If the Italian government does not move to change — and succeed in changing — the regulations by December 31, 2015, the Federation says it will call for its members to act as early as January 1, 2015.

“We are ready to engage in civil disobedience,” write the authors of the Federation’s open letter, “in order to defend our right to market our appellations.”

Venice roller suitcase ban: Why it makes sense & how to deal with it

best hotel venice grand canal

Above: The view from the breakfast terrace at the Bauer Hotel Grand Canal in Venice.

Houston-based food writer and world traveler, J.C. Reid, a frequent visitor to Italy, brought the following news item to my attention over the weekend: The Venice city council is planning to ban roller suitcases starting in May 2015, citing noise pollution and damage to historic walkways and squares as the reason for the prohibition.

Tourists will face steep fines if they are caught rolling their Samonsites through the city’s narrow calli (streets).

Bags with air-inflated rubber wheels and citizens of the lagoonal city will be exempt.

Here’s a link to an English-language report on the ban by Time magazine.

As someone who has spent considerable time in Venice — studying, playing music, and as a tourist — I think the ban makes sense for a lot of reasons.

The number one reason, in my view, is that noise pollution is, in fact, a major problem for both residents and tourists. One of the most remarkable things about visiting the car-less Venice is it’s wonderful quiet.

It’s true that the Venetians have a tormented relationship with visitors. On the one hand, the tourist industry there continues to be a cash cow for locals, as it has been for more than 700 years. On the other hand, the veneziani are constantly overrun and overwhelmed by German- and English-speaking tourists who often show little regard, respect, and consideration for the fact that Venice is a living, breathing city where parents take their children to school every day before they head to work.

The ban will make Venice more enjoyable for everyone, in my view.

The other reason that the ban makes sense is that the Venice tourism infrastructure offers myriad ways to deal with it.

First of all, there is the deposito bagagli or left luggage facility where you can store your baggage securely for a modest fee.

In my experience, when you’re spending the night in Venice, it’s always best to stow your luggage somewhere and simply carry an overnight bag. After all, it is a major hassle to walk through Venice to your hotel with luggage (unless, of course, you’re splurging for an expensive water taxi ride, in which case the ban is moot anyway).

The last time I spent the night there, I parked my rental car at Piazzale Roma and left my suitcase in the trunk of the car, taking only a small duffle bag that I slung around my shoulder.

The other thing to keep in mind is that the best way, in my opinion, to visit Venice is to stay in Venice terra firma, in other words, mainland Venice.

A lot of people don’t realize that the city of Venice actually extends to the mainland and that there are number of small cities on the mainland where you can take a ten-minute train-ride to Venice proper.

Mestre is the most obvious one. But my favorite is Quarto d’Altino, where my wife and I have stayed in one of the many wonderful restored eighteenth-century villas that dot the landscape there. Our hotel even offered a free shuttle to the train station (and this is the case more often than not).

Especially when you’re visiting for the first time, Venice can be challenging in terms of getting around. Why weigh yourself down with luggage?

Whenever I go to Venice, I travel light so that I can move swiftly about the city. It’s such a beautiful, magical place to visit. It’s much better, in my opinion, to spend your time soaking in the sights than to tire yourself out as you lug your bag through town.

Jeremy Parzen

A great profile of Prosecco & its rise by @BenODonn (but where’s Asolo?)

map asolo prosecco

Above: Asolo is one of three townships that produces Prosecco DOCG. Click on the map above to enlarge.

We really enjoyed two blog posts this week by Wine Spectator editor Ben O’Donnell, “One Nation Under Prosecco,” part 1 and part 2.

Ben offers an excellent overview of how Prosecco became such a popular wine in the U.S. and where it’s heading.

“Are we really going to be drinking $50 bottles of Prosecco, comparing the nuances of village terroirs side by side in 10 years’ time?” he asks in his conclusion. “It’s a question that has been asked and answered, in the affirmative, of dozens of wine styles over the past 50 years, and we’re only getting more open-minded about our wine. The mantle of Italy’s premier sparkling wine is up for the taking, and in Treviso, they’re moving all the right pieces to claim the crown.”

They’re both great posts and it’s remarkable to think how far Prosecco has come in the last two decades.

Our only lament is that he omits Asolo, which is part of the DOCG.

Many Americans are challenged when asked to pronounce Valdobbiadene (vahl-dohb-BEE’AH-deh-neh). And Conegliano can be tricky, too (koh-neh-l’yee-AH-noh).

Asolo (AH-zo-loh) is a bit easier to say out loud but sadly it’s often forgotten when the DOCG is brought up in conversation.

In all fairness, the Prosecco DOCG consortium hasn’t done much to promote awareness of Asolo’s corner of the appellation. It’s much smaller than Valdobbiadene and Conegliano and its production is dwarfed by that of its sister townships.

One of the reasons we started this blog was to draw attention to the beautiful Asolani hills and the great wines produced there.

Please do check out Ben’s great posts. We highly recommend them.

But please don’t forget Asolo!

Croda watermill tragedy: a response to the media attack on grape growers by @VignaioliFIVI

The following is a translation of a statement issued last week by the Italian Federation of Independent Grape Growers.

August 14, 2014

Ten days have passed since the tragic events at the Croda watermill in Refrontolo in Treviso province.

A lot has been said and written about it in the media. We can’t address what happened because we don’t know the details and the authorities and technicians haven’t completed their investigation.

As independent Italian grape growers, we believe that it’s important to share our thoughts here: among the many words that have been devoted to this episode, the term vignaiolo (grape grower) has been used inappropriately and the confusing manner in which it has been applied shows that the identity of the grape grower is still unclear in the minds of many.

In recent days, it was decided that grape growers were potentially responsible for the incident. The accusation was leveled in a chaotic attack on a group that has always existed and worked throughout Italy. The allegation has caused grave damage to those who work conscientiously and who support their families working as grape growers.

From the oldest to the youngest among us, including our board of directors, all of the members of FIVI work in a winery and each of us is completely responsible for the entire process, from growing grapes to selling the wine we produce.

Being a grape grower means having a direct relationship with the land and taking care of every single row of the vineyards where we live every day of our lives.

Our hands touch living material — not plastic. And so we know that every action causes a reaction.

We are acutely aware that respect for the vines and the land where they are planted is the key to our work and productivity. Without our vines, our wineries could not exist.

To live and make wine in any appellation means that one mustn’t limit her/himself to taking from the land. She/he must also do her/his best to give back. This is achieved by respecting, caring for, safeguarding, and supporting the microcosm where we live.

For this reason, every one of our bottles tells a different story and it pays the land back everything that it has taken from the land — with interest.

By definition, a grape grower cannot engage in self-injury.

We believe that the media’s recent attack on grape growers is baseless. It attempts to cast a bad light on an entire group of persons who, in fact, do not exploit the land. On the contrary, they care for the land where they live and every day they take care to prevent unforeseeable however potential disasters.

There are 800 of us independent grape growers and we put our blood, sweat, and tears into our work, every day and with pride.

Federazione Italiana Vignaioli Indipendenti

translation by our blogmaster