Every year Slow Wine, a welcome offshoot of the Slow Food movement, features wine producers on tour from the West to the East Coast – San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, and New York City. All of the wines featured at the tastings are either certified organic or biodynamic, and the emphasis is on clean, quality, affordable wines cultivated without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides and nurtured with attention to the phases of the moon and other farming and winemaking techniques both ancient and modern.
Slow Wine, which produces a a guide for food as well, identifies producers who take into consideration the lives of the cultivators, their vineyards, and their wine production. There is a breakdown of excellence according to three categories: the snail, the bottle and the coin.
The Snail identifies a cellar that has distinguished itself through its “interpretation of sensorial, territorial, environmental and personal values” in accordance with Slow Food philosophy (clean, of quality).
The Bottle is given to cellars that show “a consistently excellent quality throughout the range of wines presented.”
The Coin indicates good value for the quality of the wine.
Wines that epitomize “Slow Wine” values manifest fine sensory elements and reflect the personalities of their terroir, their history and their environment. The “Great Wines” are singular in their exquisite sensory qualities. The “Everyday Wines” are those that are drinkable with food or alone and are a good value.
At the 2017 tasting there were too many wonderful wines and so little time to get to them all without passing out. However, this year a few tours were offered by the Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche (University of Gastronomic Sciences). For two tours, I and a small group of educators and press followed Lucas Lanci as he introduced us to sterling producers.
The first tour was of producers who had distributors and/or importers. The second introduced us to producers who were looking for distributors and importers to collaborate with. We tasted some interesting wines, some extremely memorable, others not to my palate. But then, I favor red wines; for me, whites have to pop with an incredible sensory experience. After the tours I visited one producer of fabulous wines, Villa Giada, Andrea Faccio Azienda Agricola, Piedmont region, whose offerings included a delicious white (moscato grape). I will discuss this winery after I feature a few fine wineries I visited on the tours with Lanci, who learned about Italian wineries during his study at Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche.
The first of the notable wineries with distribution in the U.S. was Caiarossa (from Tuscany). It produces 90,000 bottles, from 79 acres of certified organic and biodynamic vines with a “snail” designation. The Caiarossa 2011, a lovely blend of cabernet sauvignon and franc, merlot, petit verdot, alicante, sangiovese and syrah, received a slow wine designation. The winery also featured Pergolaia 2012 (sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon & franc, merlot) and Aria Di Caiarossa 2012 (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, syrah, merlot). I enjoyed the Caiarossa 2011 the most. It can be enjoyed with appetizers or pasta dishes. Caiarossa’s importer/distributor close to NYC is HP Selections in New Jersey.
Another outstanding producer from Tuscany’s Chianti region is Fontodi, a larger producer with a “snail” signification indicating sensory excellence. Its production is around 300,000 bottles on 222 acres.
Fontodi is certified organic. I enjoyed both the Flaccianello Della Pieve 2013 (100% sangiovese), classified a “Great Wine,” and the Chiantio Cl. Fontodi 2013 (100% sangiovese). Both were rich in the mouth and robust with a lasting finish and notes of cherry, to be enjoyed with sharp cheeses, appetizers, meats and pasta dishes. There were tannins but they were nearly mute, which contributed to the wine’s being drinkable and quite delicious alone. The importer is Vinifera Imports, or you can order from the winery directly. Fontodi is well known in the Toscano region and also has villas one can rent. For these check on TripAdvisor.
Two producers of delicious wines hail from the lovely Piedmont region, where my paternal Italian ancestors lived back in the 1790s. Villa Giada Andrea Faccio Azienda Agricola is in Canelli, Italy. Malvirà is in Canale, also in Piedmont.
Villa Giada Andrea Faccio Azienda Agricola is a smaller producer than Fontodi. Still, it has a substantial production of 170,000 from 62 acres. Speaking to Sara, who is the proprietor of the bed-and-breakfast where you may stay when you visit the winery, I was impressed when I learned of the focus of their lifestyle – organic, sourced on their farm, no chemicals – and the care of the vineyards. They produce their energy with solar panels and attempt to make everything sustainable on their farm, which includes that BnB, Cascina Dani run by Sara while her husband runs the winery.
With attention to biodynamic and sustainable practices, the winery produces two wine
lines: Crus and Classics. Though the winery has not achieved a Slow Wine designation, it will soon, because it has a heart for preserving and helping the land by applying farming techniques that are not harmful and using renewable energy sources. This focus produces quality wines.
I tasted the reds. Barbera D’Asti Surì 2015 was very drinkable and had a mellow finish. The Barbera D’Asti Sup, Nizza Dedicato 2013 was was full-bodied and rich with notes of chocolate and hints of fruit, and few tannins on the finish. One of the few whites at this Slow Wine tasting that I did enjoy was Villa Giada’s Moscato D’Asti Surì 2015. It was memorably refreshing and fruity, not too dry, not too sweet, very drinkable, to be enjoyed with light appetizers or on its own. For me it was the white wine hit of the day. Andrea Faccio Azienda Agricola Villa Giada wines may be found at Vinus et Spiritus Lcc Importers.
Malvirà is the largest producer of the three I’m featuring here, with a number of small wineries under its collaborative umbrella producing 320,000 bottles altogether, with 104 acres under cultivation. All its wineries are certified organic. This producer too supports a BnB in the area, Villa Tiboldi, which offers rooms in a relaxing and beautiful setting.
Malvirà offered three wines for tasting. Roero Mombeltramo Riserva 2012 is 100% Nebbiolo grape, and a complex wine with some tannins, dark fruits, full-bodied finish and fragrant nose with hints of tobacco, rose and spices. It is a Slow Wine and worthy of that signification.
The other two wines, Roero Arneis Vigna Trinità (100% Nebbiolo) and Barbera D’Alba San Michele Sup, 2007 (100% Barbera D’Alba grape), are well constructed red wines, the second deeper red than the first. Both are flavorful with fruit compositions. The first has hints dark fruits, preserves and tobacco, the second of cherry and vanilla on the palate. All of these wines go well with sharper cheeses and salumi and richer meats like roasts or lamb. Their importer is Indigenous Selections.
The Slow Wine 2017 tasting also offered the Slow Wine Guide for 2017. Along with the Slow Food 2017 Guide, it may be purchased at Amazon. The importance of the environmentally sensitive thrust of such a tasting, especially now in light of a new, corporate-minded administration inattentive to the environment and climate change and disrespectful of the impact of water pollution of our rivers and streams, cannot be underestimated. Caring about sustaining and renewing the environment, and caring about how the food grown there must be clean, quality food and wine to strengthen our health and immune systems, is no longer an “elite” movement supported by the few.
It is a global movement which declares the right of human beings to eat cleanly, drink cleanly and breathe clean air. It reinforces the right of citizens to be untrammeled by corporate interests wealthy enough to travel and remain apart from areas of extreme pollution which some companies have turned into the equivalent of dangerous Superfund sites that the poor, lower and even middle classes cannot escape. The Slow Wine/Food movement is a clarion call. Hear its ring.