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Wine is increasingly becoming a major priority for flyers (CNN dubs them “oeno-flyers”), and airlines are investing more and more time and money into hiring expensive sommeliers to curate their wine offerings.
But it’s not as simple as good wine on sea level = good wine at altitude. Sommeliers need to rethink their methodology in selecting wines for planes.
Delta’s Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson gave us some insight as to what it takes to curate wine selection for 30,000 feet in the air — which, among other things, involves taste testing at altitude.
“Your senses are dulled at altitude, making it difficult to appreciate the complex scents and flavours wine has to offer,” she said. “In addition, the lower atmospheric pressure — versus tasting on land — means those flavour molecules are jetting past your sensory receptors so fast, you miss a lot.”
Much like having a cold, the pressurised cabin and its dry air numbs your taste buds, and compromises your sense of smell by drying out your nose. Since flavour is a combination of both (in fact, almost 80% of taste is based on smell) things taste different on a plane. Apparently, our sense of salty and sweetcan drop as much as 30%on a plane.
A new studyalso found that loud noise, like that of an aeroplane, can affect taste as well, making some flavours more intense, and dulling others, like sweetness. It’s one of the reasons that tomato juice is a flyer fave: the umami taste of tomatoes is said to be enhanced by the cabin noise.
Wines have a tendency to taste more acidic and tannic at altitude. According to Robinson, “strong, gritty tannins don’t show as well. Whites with a tart flavour profile also aren’t as appealing at altitude as more opulent styles.”
This means that sommeliers must select fruity wines that are low on both acid and tannin, and this minefield of flavour and perception changes is why airlines hire professional sommeliers. Robinson must navigate the changes altitude and noise cause in our palates to select wines that will remain balanced in the face of these unsteady conditions.
Robinson conducts taste tests — both on the ground and at altitude — to find varietals and blends that perform well. According to her, red wines with bottle age are good at altitude but the trick is finding the right vintage. She says that while most customers enjoy a red Bordeaux with pedigree, she looks for Bordeaux back vintages “that show more generous fruit, fragrance and harmony at altitude than the current vintage.”
Other reliably tasty wines at altitude include Rioja Reserva and Gran Reserva wines.
“Bottle-aged flavours in reds show really well — such as the leathery-mushroom-y notes of aged Bordeaux, Burgundy, Spanish Rioja and Rhone varietals. Also the smoother, resolved tannins on bottled-aged reds and on Pinot Noir work well in the drier cabin environment,” Robinson explained.
However, once a wine has been identified that works well at altitude, Robinson must ensure that wineries can supply Delta with enough bottles — no easy feat considering that Delta served 2.8 million bottles of wine on board in 2014.
A safe bet? Sticking to Bloody Marys.


mionetto.rose2Sparkling rosé is the third fastest growing sparkling wine category and has seen 11.3% growth over the 52-weeksmionetto.rose period ending July 18, 2015, according to Nielsen.

And Mionetto, one of Italy’s foremost Prosecco producer for over 125 years, with a reputation for quality, tradition and innovation has stepped up to the market’s demands. This year, the winery, founded in 1887 by Francesco Mionetto in the small village of Valdobbiadene in the heart of the Prosecco region north of Venice, is including the Gran Rosé to its Prestige Collection.

"The expansion of our Prestige Collection is not only a response to the market request," states Enore Ceola, Managing Director of Mionetto USA, "but demonstrates our innovation as an Italian sparkling producer."

Mionetto prosecco Prestige Gran Rosé Extra Dry is now available in the USA in two sizes: 750 ml - $14 and 187 ml - $5../index-php/._nbsp.css;

Mionetto Prestige Gran Rosé, Valdobbiadene, Italy (750 ml - $14 and 187 ml - $5). This tasty, refreshing Prosecco, 11.5% alc., with a gorgeous pink hue, inside out (the label is pink too), offers persistent bubbles and notes of pink grapefruit, pomegranate and black currant, with a hint of wild floral rosé and aromas of golden apple and  white peach.  A well-balanced acidity provides a fresh and lively mouthfeel with a clean dry finish.

A perfect aperitivo, it definitely meets the market’s demands for rosés to pair with richer foods, from appetizers to grilled fish and fowl.

sancerreSaget la Perrière is a 9th Generation family owned and managed winery in the Loire Valley and has belonged to the Saget group since 1996. Under the leadership of brothers  Jean-Louis and Christian, the company which owns 99 acres of Sauvignon Blanc and 10 acres of Pinot Noir in the AOC Sancerre,  strives for the best expressions of Sauvignon Blanc – Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé – and Pinot Noir.

Their domaines in Verdigny-Sancerre spread out in the most prestigious and most beautiful appellation in the Loire, renowned for both its terroir, its wines and for the magical site where the winery stands and where the vineyards are grown.  Magical because the wines are aged in a 200 million years old cave where generations of troglodytes thrived before history even began, and which can be visited today.  

For their Vin de France designation  utilized for the La Petite Perrière, Saget sources grapes from their estate vineyards in Touraine as well as from multiple regions in France, notably the south of France.  The fruitiness of the varieties grown in the south balances perfectly well the acidity of their northern  (Loire) counterpart../index-php/._nbsp.css;

Domaine de la Perrière Sancerre 2013  $25.99 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the 106 acres of the estate’s Sancerre vineyards, located in the flinty soil districts of Bannay, Verdigny, Saint-Satur, Crézancy and Vinon, natural fermentation  and three months aging in fine lees results in a pale yellow color wine with green hues. On the nose there are grassy and floral aromas mixed with citrus fruit. On the palate, a stark minerality is balanced with freshness and depth with an exquisite ending of white flowers and lemon zest. Pairs perfectly with seafood and shellfish, ceviche, sushi  and Asian cuisine.  Alcohol: 12.5%

Le Domaine Saget Pouilly Fumé 2012 - $ 28.99 A well rounded wine, powerful and elegant;  crystal clear with pale gold highlights, with floral notes mixed with tropical fruits on the nose and a well- balanced acidity in the palate with luscious aromas of mango, lychee, pear, and white peach../index-php/._nbsp.css; Its long and lovely finish ends on an exquisite fresh note. Alcohol: 12.5%

sancerre.roseLa Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc 2013-  $12.99. 100% Sauvignon Blanc from the best selection of vines from Saget Perrière’s own estates vineyards in the Loire Valley and their long-term partners in the South of France. Straw gold with green highlights it has an intense nose of fruits, flowers and spices with a mineral background. On the palate, it is lively with a vast range of aromas from honey and mint to pear, peach and summer fruit.

La Petite Perrière Pinot Noir 2013-  $13.99.  100% pinot noir grapes sourced from the estate vineyards in Touraine (Loire Valley) and from the South of France.  A bright and intense burnished garnet, this wine has a typical “Pinot Noir” nose with cherry, plum aromas and a hint of violet, a well-balanced structure between acidity and silky tannins and a mouthful of red stewed fruits and spices../index-php/._nbsp.css; Great with fowl and grilled meats as well as cheeses and some desserts.  

La Petite Perrière Rosé-  $13.99 100% Pinot Noir.  Beautiful pale salmon shade this wine is intense and elegant on the nose with floral and fruity notes accentuated by the fragrance of rose petals.  On the palate it is fresh with a lively acidity and a wide array of summer aromas of  raspberries, strawberries, red currants and violets. Pairs well with all types of food, best enjoyed young. Alcohol: 12%


This is a "Casatiello", made with ham, cheese and bread dough, studded with eggs../index-php/._nbsp.css;A typical Easter bread in Campania. It was baked specially to host us journalists - participants of the Campania Stories 2015 - by Rossana Lonardo, wife of Sandro Lonardo, owner and winemaker of Cantine Lonardo, Contrade di Taurasi, in the heart of the DOCG appellation of Taurasi, in the hilly volcanic region of Irpinia in Campania.

On a visit to the Lonardo's house on a wintry day in March, the bread, a hearty bowl of pasta and veal grilled on the chimney coals, were a foil to the superb
Contrade di Taurasi is a family-owned five-hectare farm that the Lonardo Family cultivates organically on a volcanic soil with a low yield per hectare.  

Professor Alessandro (Sandro) Lonardo, a retired teacher of Latin and Literature, returned to his birth place in the ancestral family estate established in the heart of Taurasi for umpteen generations, and with his wife’s encouragement began planting vines in the rich volcanic agricultural land that had seen history, cultures and powers come and go, thrive and shrivel like seasonal fruit.  The brand “Contrade di Taurasi” was born in 1998.
But being a teacher by trade and the father of two academicians: one daughter is a scientist, the other an archeologist, Sandro was convinced that wine, like people, can be brought to higher levels of quality and performance through work, research and hands-on experimentation.   Sandro knew he could work hard, but he also realized that he had so much time left to grow good vintages.  
So he tapped unto the knowledge and experience of departments of oenology at The Federico II University of Naples and the University of Palermo, to improve on the traditional vine-growing technique and the new agronomical and oenological techniques while maintaining a strict organic philosophy both in the fields and in the cellar../index-php/._nbsp.css;
The result are gorgeous, elegant handcrafted wines,  with a purplish hue, a nose of cherries and prunes and a silky mouthful of ripe fruit with hints of tobacco, leather, red underwood fruit  and wild herbs, tannings tempered by a lively acidity and a long, long finish../index-php/._nbsp.css; The grapes are all sourced from the Lonardo estate, and the wines earn highly-prestigious medals and awards, nationally and internationally.
Aglianico is the most important native grape variety in Taurasi and at the core of the Taurasi DOCG appellation and produces hisAglianico, the  Taurasi Riserva, which is only produced on peak harvest years (I had the privilege of tasting the phenomenal Taurasi Riversa 1999) , the table wine Aglianico Irpinia DOCand the incomparable single vineyard  Vigne D’Alto, which I also had the privilege to taste with Sandro and his wife.
But The Grecomusc’ is in its own league and deserves a special word.  

The Lonardos are the only winemakers producing this amazing white wine!  It comes from native ungrafted vines, taller than man, with gnarled branches, thick trunks, and roots that burrow as deep as time into the many layers of lava and clay../index-php/._nbsp.css;

It tastes like no other wine and every drop of the yellow greenish wine draws from ancient times. An ample nose of passion fruit and citrus gives way to a deep minerality and sulfurous whiffs. In the mouth, it deploys in all in richness with a lively, young acidity and complex tannins../index-php/._nbsp.css; This wine can stand to any food, from rich boar to delicate pear tart!


Organic farming makes for delicious wines especially when grown in the superb Chianti Classico terroir of Bibbiano,

Castellina in Chianti, overlooking the medieval city of Siena and the fabled towers of San Gimigniano../index-php/._nbsp.css;The estate grapes - Sangiovese, Colorino and Sangiovese Grosso - are hand-harvested and vinified in stainless steel, cement vats and French oak. All are DOCG.
Bibbiano Chianti Classico 2013 Sangiovese 95% and Colorino 5%. Surprising and delicious nose, unmistakably Chianti with fruity notes and aromas of red fruit;well-balanced, fresh and versatile on the palate with all the chianti characteristics. Another surprise: fermentation and maturation were in cement vats, followed by 3 months on the bottle. No wood whatsoever!

Bibbiano Chianti Classico Riserva Montornello 2012 . 100% Sangiovese from a single vineyard: Montornello. Elegant, mineral with lots of fruit and spicy notes of black pepper, tobacco and cocoa. Sweet tanins tempered by a lively acidity. Long finish in the mouth.  Maceration on the skins followed by fermentation in French oak for 18 months and 4 months in the bottle.

Bibbiano Gran Selezione Vigna del Capannino 2011 - 100% Sangiovese Grosso. This wine represents all that the winery stands for: elegance, purity, intensity and deep and complex flavors. Barrel fermentation for 24 months and in the bottle for 6 months give this ruby red, full-bodied wine an intense nose of black and red fruit with spices, tobacco, cocoa and some minerality.  Well structured and elegant with silky tannins and plenty of complex fruit and minerality.
The wines pair superbly with food, from antipasti, pizza, risotto, grilled meats and fish to desserts as proven at a winemaker's luncheon at Cecconi's, Miami Beach../index-php/._nbsp.css;
Simone Diament's photo.
Simone Diament's photo.
Simone Diament's photo.
Simone Diament's photo.
Simone Diament's photo.

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SNAKE RIVER VALLEY, Idaho - It is Idaho's fastest-growing agricultural industry, bringing millions and millions of dollars into the state every single year, and it is not potatoes. It's wine. Also, the changing climate elsewhere could drive more winemakers to Idaho.
Business Is Booming
Right now, at Koenig Vineyards along the Snake River near Marsing, workers are busy, and cramped.
"We're just constantly trying to make room for more wines," says owner Greg Koenig.
Koenig built their current facility a few years ago. But, thanks to his business and the overall demand for Idaho wine growing so quickly, he's already outgrown his building. "The good news is that people are really starting to get excited about Idaho wines."
The Bad Old Days
But, it wasn't always that way. In fact, a few decades ago, Idaho wine was part of a famous joke in "The Muppets Movie," where Steve Martin (playing a waiter) spits out "One of the finest wines of Idaho," sparkling muscatel.
As you might imagine, executive director of the Idaho Wine Commission, Moya Dolsby, doesn't think that's too funny, "Isn't that awful? People are still talking about it. Justin, stop talking about it!"
I will. Because, there's been serious growth in the Idaho wine industry. As Dolsby points out, "Idaho is more than just potatoes."
From 2008 to 2013, the number of Idaho wineries has increased from 38 to 51. The number of wine jobs has grown from 625 to 1,226. And, the industry's economic impact in the state has more than doubled, from $73 million to $169.3 million. But, it's not just about the amount of wine being produced. The quality is also improving.
Koenig says, "We talk about 20 years ago as being the bad old days when we couldn't even get people to try our wines. Now, people are coming to us and asking."
Dolsby says, "Now, I feel like I don't have to beg restaurants to try wine."
Koenig is the first Idaho winery to score a 90-plus rating from Wine Spectator, and they did it on three different wines. In fact, wineries across the state are winning big awards.
Things like that get Dolsby excited. "That's awesome. That's huge. That's like, 'Yes! We're doing it!'"
Warming Up To Idaho Wine
But, what about Idaho is helping vineyards grow? And, what's drawing other winemakers to Idaho? Dolsby says, plenty, "It's something different, new... resources, water, land, it's more affordable."
"Wine is all about soil and climate," says Koenig. "The modern Idaho wine industry is here only because of the climate for what people can grow. There are only a few places in the world where you can grow good wine grapes."
And, those places are changing, because their climates are changing.
"Idaho, like much of the Northwest and the globe, has warmed just over a degree fahrenheit over the past century," says John Abatzoglou, PhD. and climatologist at the University of Idaho.
A degree may not sound like much. But, Dr. Abatzoglou says that has allowed perennial crops, like wine grapes, to better survive the Winter in Idaho. He also says it's increased the growing season by two weeks, opening Idaho's doors to more types of crops, "That includes a lot of the crops, such as wine grapes, and other sorts of fruits."
Meanwhile, the same climate changes in America's most highly-regarded wine region, Northern California, could make it too hot and dry for some varieties of grapes down there. Dr. Abatzoglou says that means, growers could bring them to Idaho, "It's possible that many of these crops will be able to take refuge in the Northwest, including parts of Idaho by the mid 21st-century."
Unlimited Potential
The climate, along with Idaho's soil and affordable land, is why Idaho's wine industry is poised to continue to grow, ripen, and pour into other areas of the state.
Koenig says, "The potential for Idaho wine is really unlimited at this point."
Also, June is Idaho wine month. That features Savor Idaho, event where hundreds of people will gather at the Botanical Gardens to taste Idaho's finest wine and also some food.

Global total volume growth remains subdued for a second year running, setting it up to be among the three lowest in the last decade, writes Spiros Malandrakis, senior alcoholic drinks analyst at Euromonitor International.

The global drinks market is subdued and uneven, but craft beer and non-Scotch whiskies are performing well.

Beyond the usual Western European patient that ended the year flat-lining, the Chinese slowdown – at just 1.2% growth – is now the most sobering growth figure coming out of the country since the 90s.

Russia’s on-going macro and geopolitical travails – culminating in a nigh apocalyptic decline of 6% for 2014 – weigh heavily on the global landscape.

But as the seemingly unstoppable emerging market engine begins to stutter and stall, North America shifts back into focus with total volume growth for the year at 1%, up from a poor 0.3% in 2013, if still some distance from the exuberance of the past.

Winners and Losers

Geographic diversification – or lack thereof – remains one of the defining factors determining top line success or failure. It is within that context that categories like Cognac and vodka suffered disproportionally due to their over-reliance on a single market or region, with China and Russia exerting their immense gravitational pull to drag their global growth rates lower.

With Cognac registering total volume growth of just 0.4 % and vodka declining by 5%, it was second-tier markets beyond their core strategic bastions that provided, or could yet provide, some respite. For example, Cognac’s belated shift of focus towards the US and mass market varieties has already planted the seeds of an American renaissance for a category otherwise trapped in a gilded cage of luxury and nouveau rich extravagance.

On the other hand, the on-going pivot towards brown spirits and select varieties within the whisky stable underscores the still untapped opportunities even in otherwise terminally mature markets.

Heritage, authenticity and craftsmanship solidified their position as key drivers for whiskies but some fared better than others. Bourbon, Irish and Japanese whiskies – witnessing spectacular total volume rates of 5%, 8% and 7% respectively – stole the limelight from Scotch, which was eclipsed in terms of innovation and relevance to the millennial demographic alongside key Scotch distillers’ overoptimistic assessment of the emerging market mantra.

There were winners and losers across all categories.

In beer, beyond the ever-rising tide of craft offerings across the globe, imported premium lager, ale and non-alcoholic variants proved to be the star performers at the same time that imported mid-priced lager suffered the most – a reiteration of the relevance of polarization, craftsmanship, diversification and exoticism as the key drivers across the alcoholic drinks landscape.

Drinks and cocktails

Cider, seemingly insulated by recessionary forces, macroeconomic volatility or even evolving drinking patterns, continued enjoying solid total volume growth of nearly 9% on a global level, as the western European core markets gradually take a back seat to the skyrocketing North American success story.

Lastly, RTDs reiterated their dominant position over retreating high-strength premixes. Even though Bud Lime-A-Rita’s explosive trajectory in the US got inevitably reacquainted with gravity, strong growth in Asia Pacific secured an overall healthy performance of 2.7% for the overall RTDs/high-strength premixes category.


audrey b3


Young, talented and passionate, Audrey Braccini’s slender fingers seem to play a sonata on an invisible instrument as she describes the ineffable complexity of the Pouilly Fuissés she crafts, parcel by parcel, at Domaine Ferret since 2008.

Situated in the heart of Fuissé in the heart of southern Burgundy's prime Chardonnay territory, Domaine Ferret has been a producer of top Poulli-Fuissé cuvées since the end of WWII when owner  Madame  Jeanne Ferret, a stickler for detail,  decided to bottle and label the wines produced by her estate grown grapes as “unofficial  crus” in the Pouilly-Fuissé appellation.

The matriarchal Domaine Ferret had been managed since 1840 mostly by the women in the Ferret family until the line stopped at Jeanne’s daughter Colette and the domaine was purchased by Louis Jadot in 2008.

In equal measure muse and wizard to Pouilly Fuissé, Audrey -- who grew up in the cellar of her aficionado winemaker father in Lorraine, studied winemaking in Montpellier and excelled in Gamay vinification in Beaujolais – farms sustainably and vinifies each one of the domaine’s  45 parcels separately to extract the utmost truth and potential from a terroir of different soils: granite, sand, clay, marl and limestone.

She has an uncanny certainty of how much sun must caress each cluster and when the grapes are just about ready for harvest for the results she wants to achieve: Fresh wines with lively acidity, elegant minerality and subtle and engaging fruit with a long, lasting finish that enhance dishes from seafood and poultry to game and even desserts.

Photos: SFG - At a luncheon a Juvia, South Beach, the wines stood up and complemented from ceviche and tuna causa croquette with aji amarillo sauce to chicken curry and chocolate desserts.



audrey ceviche

audrey fd chick

The wines:audrey food

2013 Domaine Ferret. A blend of the best parcels from Fuissé’s 10 to 30-year-old vines, the pale straw-colored wine shows freshness and elegance, minerality with layers of subtle fruit and a long and spicy finish.  It is “the ambassador of Pouilly-Fuissé”, Ms. Braccini says of this wine, half of which is aged in lined concrete tanks and half in older barrels,  to stress the importance of understanding the characteristics of the wines of this appellation before tasting the single vineyards cuvées.

audrey tournant2012 Domaine Ferret Les Clos Single Vineyard Rich golden colour, and a lovely mineral and earthy nose,  with a creamy feel due to malolactic fermentation and hints of apples and spices  

 2012 Domaine Ferret, Pouilly-Fuissé Hors Classe "Les Ménétrières" Single vineyard.   Pure limestone soils and low yields deliver a golden color wine with a closed nose,  plenty of character in the mouth yet delicately complex with hints of mint and flowers and layers of orange, ripe fruit and spice.  Only 900 bottles were produced.

2011 Domaine Ferret “ Tournant de Pouilly “ Single Vineyard. A very hot July and August led to an early harvest (08/26) to keep the wine fresh and the level of acidity interesting. A little work from the winemaker – stainless steel fermentation followed by 1/3 in new oak barrels, 1/3 in 2year-old oak and 1/3 in 1-year-old barrels --  achieves a powerful yet complex and fruity wine

2010 Domaine Ferret, Pouilly-Fuissé Tête de Cru "Les Perrières", "The most beautiful vintage of the last 10 years " said Audrey. Gold yellow, with a rich nose of summer fruit and almonds, it becomes creamy, juicy and plush on the palate with hints of pears, apples and vanilla tempered by a young and fresh acidity. A long and lasting finish.

inedit 1 

With its gold sheriff star and its red bottle-neck ring with letter fonts that look borrowed from a Wanted poster in a Far West town, Inedit Damm’s bad boy looks belies its contents.

Inedit, the beer designed by world-renowned El Bulli-famed Chef Ferran Adrià, sommeliers Ferran Centelles, David Seijas from Barcelona and brewed by Estrella Damm brewmasters, is intended to complement the flavors of modern gastronomy, especially citrus-based sauces and vegetables like artichokes and asparagus which are difficult to pair with wines.

Even though I missed the bitterness of hops I like in a beer, I enjoyed it with foods, whether pedestrian, traditional or modern.

The softly carbonated beer with 4.5% alcohol content is crafted from a blend of barley malt, wheat, hops, coriander, licorice and orange peel, it has a pale gold color and is slightly cloudy in the glass. The aroma is quite unique: opening with a floral spiciness it develops into an intensely aromatic yet creamy and fresh brew with rich notes of yeast and citrus that follows through in the aftertaste.

The packaging  suggests serving it chilled in a white wine glass, filling it only halfway to fully appreciate its intensity and aromatic complexity.

Only recently released in 4-pack 11.2 oz bottles across the country for $9.99, it was created in 2008, as an alternative to wine.

For more information log on to


photo: southfloridagourmet 




lyn farmer

icon 2Award-winning wine journalist Lyn Farmer on Garnacha from Carinena; the next great grape 

Mangoes have dazzled palates across the globe for centuries with their aroma, taste, texture, and seemingly endless shapes, sizes, and colors. In Miami alone there are over 250 varieties. Miami-based writer, critic, poet and educator Jen Karetnick is the award-winning author of nine books, including three this year alone: the recently published book Mango and two volumes  Prayer of Confession and Brie Season about to be released.
Jen’s nickname, Mango Mama, could not be more appropriate! Jen lives on the last acre of a historic mango plantation with her husband, two children; three dogs; four cats; and fourteen mango trees!  By the time July comes around, Jen uses mangoes in the most unexpected ways, in just about everything, cocktails, smoothies, savory and sweet dishes.
Along with her own recipes which she has developed over the years, the book Mango features recipes from a group of Jen’s buddies who happen to be Miami's most celebrated chefs.
From smoothies to cocktails, from mango blintzes to jerked grouper with mango-fig chutney, and mangozpacho (mango-infused gazpacho)--this book is  the ultimate book on Mango. It is delightfully written, based on serious research and highlights  all those chefs and mixologists who are striving to use our local products in their cuisines.
Click here for Jen’s recipe for frozen mango sangría, or “Mangría,” 

 Just when we thought there was little more to discover in terms of wines and new wine regions in Spain, enters Cariñena from Aragón, Spain.

While it is one of the oldest protected growing areas in Europe, and the second oldest in Spain since the DO or Denomination of Origin was created in 1932 , it remained promotionally and operationally shy, selling most of their production to better known, more media-oriented appellations, until recently../index-php/._nbsp.css;

The 1990s was a period of rapid development as small producers joined forces to become cooperatives, striving to adapt the robust wines to a more modern palate. As a result, exports have quadrupled since 1995 and it is now poised to burst unto the world markets with jazzy labels and consumer friendly flavors.

Lyn Farmer, wine director of the iconic wine event Veritage and a renowned wine writer has just returned from Cariñena to tell us all about this old and new wine region located in  the historic province of Aragón, North East of Spain, South of the Pyrennées, in the transitional area between the Iberian System and the Ebro Valley../index-php/._nbsp.css; Cariñena vineyards – viticulture has been practiced there since 50 BC -  are located between Madrid and Barcelona,  about 50 km southwest of Zaragoza, on a plateau known as the Campo de Cariñena.


The image that Cariñena  projects today, with its system of coops,  is that of “the next great grape, Garnacha from Cariñena.” The region is the source of the French Carignan grape, which is also grown in Italy, California and several other New World regions.

Listen as Lyn Farmer explains the difference between Cariñena and Garnacha or Grenache and why “Cariñena is the most intriguing combination of old-fashioned and traditional with the rabidly modern.”

Lyn Farmer walks us through a tasting of young and aged wines, Garnacha varietals and blends vinified  in the region, and conjures the image of the red, arid soils swept by hot winds and frozen in cold nights that produce the next iconic wine on America’s tables../index-php/._nbsp.css;

Listen as Lyn Farmer talks about the wines of Carinena, Aragon, Spain 


Uvaggio's owner Craig DeWald and sommelier Heath Porter set up for the Carinena Wine Tasting and Seminar, in Coral Gables

uvaggio carinena

heath uvaggio carinena





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Wow. So apparently a class action lawsuit has been brought against makers of low-price-point California wines  (low-priced California wines sold under such labels as Franzia, Mogen David and Almaden) that have been found to contain nightmarishly-high levels of arsenic. First, here is the list of implicated wines. Do you drink these wines? Scary? Scary!

This suit has touched off a high profile volley of wine-pundits and scientists, both actual and pseudo, over whether the claims hold water. Some people are saying there is misinformation and exaggeration. Some people, like this guy, are crying hoax.

You’re a hardworking IT professional or project manager who leans on Trader Joe’s for reasonable grocery receipts and you love the feeling of not having to sell a kidney to buy wine, because let’s face it, you can metabolize it way better with two kidneys. How do you know if you have a major shopping dilemma, or indeed a simmering health crisis, on your hands?

Long story short, it ain’t just Two Buck Chuck that’s dirty – this whole fracas is suspect.

So here’s a quick primer on Poison from another person with no credentials in science but a pretty intense number of field hours in wineries.

How does wine get contaminated with arsenic?

Arsenic is a poison that naturally occurs in soil. (Atomic number 33 on the periodic table of elements.) Plant roots can assimilate it in the natural course of growth. It can be a component of pesticides. It can also enter wine that is filtered for clarity using bentonite clay. Arsenic is present in drinking water and in a variety of foods. Federal regulations stipulate 10ppb as an acceptable arsenic level for drinking water based on a projected consumption of two liters per person per day. There is no established “safe” level for wine in the US, but may I suggest that if you drink 2 liters of wine a day, you just might have bigger problems than arsenic?

Yes, okay, but seriously, I have a pretty intense Ménage à Trois Moscato habit. Am I at risk?

In my professional opinion you are very much at risk for a dull throbbing headache behind your eyeballs.

As for arsenic poisoning, probably not. Even if some of these wines weigh in at 50ppb instead of 10 – and even that is being debated – you’re probably not drinking a large enough volume of them to be affected.

Arsenic poisoning isn’t very subtle. You’d double down on that headache with a worse headache, plus gastric distress, convulsions, creepy spots on your skin, and coma. If you are experiencing symptoms of poisoning, and you are a devoted drinker of any of the brews on the list, by all means, get it checked out.

Why are high-end wines not implicated in this hoo-hah?

Well, the short answer is “Because that’s not who’s being sued.” The plaintiff in this suit “noticed a pattern” in which price point per liter correlated with higher arsenic levels.

I’m wondering if media outlets and the eternally gullible and outrage-forward Court of Public Opinion are a teensy smidge readier to believe contamination claims against cheap wines. Maybe the vast preponderance of the “scarable” wine-buying public isn’t stocking their cellars with thousand dollar bottles. And here’s a fun fact: the folks who brought the suit just happen to sell a service that purports to test and assure the purity of the wine you’re quaffing.

What should I do?

You should drink wine that works for you. My personal prejudices around “works for you” include deliciousness, preferably sustainably-rendered deliciousness, and preferably deliciousness that does not make me need a second mortgage. Your prejudice-mileage may vary. The evidence so far seems to indicate that the Poison Wine debacle is largely a bunch of hooey, but expect debate to continue on that. If you’re concerned about how clean your wine is, and that is a worthy concern, seek out wineries that aggressively limit their environmental impacts. They might be certified organic, they might be completely or partially biodynamic, they probably pay close attention to their water footprint, and they probably run smaller scale operations, pay employees reasonably, and generally try to observe a Do No Harm ethic. They probably cost more than the wines listed in the class action. And that is probably justified, and worth supporting.

Arsenic is a dangerous toxin, but, um… so is alcohol. And sometimes so is the news.

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Mangoes have dazzled palates across the globe for centuries with their aroma, taste, texture, and seemingly endless shapes, sizes, and colors. In Miami alone there are over 250 varieties. Miami-based writer, critic, poet and educator Jen Karetnick is the award-winning author of nine books, including three this year alone: the recently published book Mango and two volumes  Prayer of Confession and Brie Season about to be released.
Jen’s nickname, Mango Mama, could not be more appropriate! Jen lives on the last acre of a historic mango plantation with her husband, two children; three dogs; four cats; and fourteen mango trees!  By the time July comes around, Jen uses mangoes in the most unexpected ways, in just about everything, cocktails, smoothies, savory and sweet dishes.
Along with her own recipes which she has developed over the years, the book Mango features recipes from a group of Jen’s buddies who happen to be Miami's most celebrated chefs.
From smoothies to cocktails, from mango blintzes to jerked grouper with mango-fig chutney, and mangozpacho (mango-infused gazpacho)--this book is  the ultimate book on Mango. It is delightfully written, based on serious research and highlights  all those chefs and mixologists who are striving to use our local products in their cuisines.
Click here for Jen’s recipe for frozen mango sangría, or “Mangría,” 

The Marchesi Fumanelli family have been cultivating grapes and producing prestigious wines since 1470, in the heart of the most classical Valpolicella, on a hilltop eight miles North West of Verona surrounded by vineyards, cherry and cypress trees. But it is really since 1998, that they have become competitive in the modern wine arena.

With 78 acres of estate grown fruit within the walls of their ancient property, Fulmanelli combines traditional and modern techniques to produce the classical Valpolicella wines, keeping faithful to their terroir../index-php/._nbsp.css; Armando Pirola Fumanelli,  the scion of a long line of Marchesi, is in Miami to launch his new association with Pasternak Imports../index-php/._nbsp.css;    

Fumanelli is one of the region’s largest family owned wineries, and also the most historic . The name Valpolicella means in Latin and Greek  “Valley of Many Cellars.”  Listen as Marchese Fumanelli talks about his ancient cellars and the vestiges of Roman ruins found on his historic property.

At a luncheon we tasted several of his delicious wines, all made with native grapes, according to the very strict regulations imposed by the Valpolicella association../index-php/._nbsp.css;  Listen as he talks about Amarone, the appasimento – drying of the grapes – methods.



Marchesi Fumanelli wines tasted:

Terso Bianco Veneto 2009 IGT 50% Garganega; 50% Trebbiano 5
 Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012 DOC , Corvina 40%, Corvinone 50% and Rondinella 10-20%
Squarano Classico DOC superiore
 Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC Classico 2008 , Corvina 30 – 40%, Corvinone 50% and Rondinella 10-20%
Octavius Amarone della Valpolicella DOC Classico Riserva  2007

 Photos: Simone Diament, SFG



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 WALLA WALLA VALLEY, Wash., Feb. 6. 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) today announced it will establish The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater as the newest American Viticulture Area (AVA) on Monday, Feb. 9.

The AVA is situated on an alluvial fan of the Walla Walla River, where the river exits the foothills of the Blue Mountains and enters the Walla Walla Valley. It lies entirely within the state of Oregon and includes part of the town of Milton-Freewater. The area contained within the Rocks District also lies within the Walla Walla Valley AVA, which in turn is entirely within the larger Columbia Valley AVA.

The distinguishing feature of The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater is its soil, which consists primarily of dark-colored basalt cobblestones. The cobblestone-rich soil is very well drained, which encourages the vines to root deeply. Due to their coarse texture, the soils are not easily eroded, so cover crops are not required and the cobblestones can be left exposed on the surface where they absorb solar radiation. Heat from the sun-warmed stones promotes growth early in the season and assists ripening during the late summer and early fall.

Nineteen wine producers have vineyards within the boundaries of The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater AVA, which contains approximately 3,770 acres and currently has approximately 250 acres of commercially producing vineyards. The AVA application effort was organized and managed by Steve Robertson of Delmas/SJR Vineyard along with seven other wine growers and producers../index-php/._nbsp.css; Dr. Kevin R. Pogue, a professor of geology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, submitted the petition to the TTB.

"The concept behind AVAs is to recognize regions that have truly unique growing conditions that are expressed in the wines. I believe we have remained true to that spirit, creating an AVA with the most uniform terroir in the United States," said Dr. Pogue. "The Rocks District lies on one landform, with very uniform topography and climate, and 96-percent of the soils belong to the Freewater soil series."

The Walla Walla Valley AVA as a whole spans northeastern Oregon to southeastern Washington and has a long agricultural history. A wide variety of crops have been cultivated in The Rocks District since the late 1800s, and in addition to wine grapes the area still produces commercially-grown apples, cherries, prunes and plums. Wines produced from vineyards planted in The Rocks District in the mid-1990s were quickly recognized by wine critics as among the finest in the country.

"Wines from The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater have been earning accolades for years," said Duane Wollmuth, Executive Director of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance.

"The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater marks Oregon's 18th AVA, another important step in designating the distinctive and high-quality wine growing regions within our state," said Ellen Brittan, chairwoman of the Oregon Wine Board. "By gaining AVA status, producers who grow or source fruit from these vineyards can better differentiate the unique characteristics of their wines."

"Washington State Wine is excited to collaborate with our partners in the Walla Walla Valley AVA and in Oregon to share the story of The Rocks District of Milton-Freewater," said Steve Warner, president of Washington State Wine, which promotes awareness of wineries and growers in Washington State and its cross-border AVAs. "This isn't about state borders. It's about the Pacific Northwest and our growing reputation as home to world-class wines. We feel this new AVA designation further recognizes the unparalleled terroir of this area."

To learn more about the Oregon Wine Board (OWB), visit ; about Washington State Wine (WSW) , visit ; and about the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance visit


As the end of the year approaches, wine regions from around the globe – some as little known in the USA as Burgenland in Austria – are bringing forth their wines.

I had a taste of Burgenland this Spring in Vienna, at a food and wine exhibit held by this region in one of the city’s oldest squares. People young and old, bundled up against the cold milled under taut white tents topped with colorful banners flapping in the wind, drank wine around wooden tables, and sampled regional sausages, würsts, cheeses, honeys, jams and other products from stand after stand groaning under the bounty of Burgenland.

For me the secret was out. It could even decipher the names of grape varieties, enough to later order wine at local restaurants.

It was another matter to make out and then remember the long and combined names on the labels written in Gothic letters in the best German fashion.

kadlec karlIn Austria, there are 35 grape varieties - 22 white and 13 red - officially approved for the production of Qualitätswein (quality wine) or Qualitätswein of a special ripeness and type of harvest (Prädikatswein – sweet wine) and Landwein. All which multiply the reasons for getting confused.

So upon my return to Miami I was delighted to find a line of Austrian wines from the producer Karl Kadlec in Burgenland under the simple label KK Lyss LLC.

Juicy reds, predominantly from  the zesty, full-bodied Blaufränkisch, with subtle mineral spicy notes; vibrant and elegant whites from Grüner Vertliner and Chardonnay, with mineral and herbal notes, rich and silky late harvest wines with Muskat Ottonel or a sweet and beguiling Ice Wine  (Eiswein) all have names I can read and remember.

burgenland panonian plains

Burgenland (13,840 ha), the easternmost province of Austria, is unlike any other region in a country known for rugged Alps, verdant meadows or its capital Vienna. Burgenland sits on the edge of Central Europe’s infinitely vast Pannonian plain where the line of the horizon stretches on and on until it breaks at the shores of Lake Neusiedl, the shallow, steppe-like Neusiedlersee which  along numerous smaller and shallow lakes surrounding the vineyards, moderates the extreme continental climate, to create the ideal conditions necessary for viticulture.

As a result, the wines from Burgenland have received awards and accolades in recent years,  including the DAC status in 2005. DAC stands for ”Districtus Austriae Controllatus”  or “protected Austrian declaration of origin”- The DAC is a designation for Austrian quality wines from a specific appellation.

Here are some notable wines with simple labels made available in the USA and in Florida by KK LYSS LLC. For additional information on the many wines in their portfolio, log on to



lyss_blaufraenkisch_classicLyss Cuvée 2011, Burgenland, Austria ($43.00) This complex Weingut Kadlec is a deep ruby red blend of 55% Blaufränkish; 25% Zweigelt; 15% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, that spent two years in barrique. Its serious tannins are well-balanced with a lively acidity and moderate alcohol content (13%). It owes its enticing red fruit aromas on the nose to the zesty Blaufränkish. Round in the mouth and palate it is fruit-forward with notes of ripe red fruit – raspberry, cherries, cassis; underwood, chocolate, violet and spice; all ending in a long and fragrant finish../index-php/._nbsp.css; It pairs well with beef and pork, venison, all kinds of sausages, stews and cheeses.

Lyss Rouge Zweigelt 2012, Burgenland, Austria ($30.00) This full-bodied 100% Zweigelt varietal was aged in barrique for one year.  Zweigelt is the most widely-grown red grape variety in Austria,. This violet red wine is easy-drinking with plush, solid tannins, ripe cherry and cassis fruit tones, spices and 14% alcohol  content. Like the Malbec in Argentina, it is the battle horse of Austrian wines and lends itself to many interpretations.

 Lyss Rouge Blaufränkish 2011, Burgenland, Austria ($30.00) 100% Blaufränkish. This medium-bodiedgruen_vel_exel late ripening varietal is deep dark ruby with pleasant tannins tampered by a lively acidity. It displays rich tones of ripe underwood red berries and cherry and a long finish. 14% alcohol content. It stands up well to pasta dishes, crispy duck, venison medallions with wild cherries as well as Asian dishes.




Lyss Excellence Grüner Vertliner 2012 DAC,  Winviertel, Austria ($25.50) Austria is best known for its elegant white wines. This 100% Grüner Vertliner comes from Weinviertel, Austria's largest wine producing region, with a limestone soil,  renowned for its sparkling wine and racy Grüner Veltliners. It is dry, elegant and well balanced, with crisp with notes of grapefruit and green apple, mineral and herbal tones and a long, aromatic finish.  It pairs well with seafood, oysters, soft cheeses, fish and pastas.



Lyss Secco Rosé, Burgenland, Austria ($19.20) A counterpart to the Italian Prosecco, this sparkling rosé with delicate berry flavors and fresh apples is light, refreshing on the palate thanks to a well-balanced acidity and a gentle finish. It is festive and seasonal and can be served as an aperitif or with shellfish, spicy foods and appetizers.


Ice wines/Eiswein  and Sweet wines


Lyss Eiswein Welschriesling Chardonnay 2009,Burgenland, Austria ($51.20)  It is made from 50% Riesling and 50% chardonnay grapes that have been hand-harvested at dawn after the first frost and then lightly pressed in a pneumatic press. The must first ferments in steel tanks and is then aged for several years in small old oak barrels. It is the essence of the late harvested fruit enhanced by a concentration of tropical fruit, candied orange peel, green almonds and honey with a pineapple acidity that brings all the flavors together into a thick and luscious wine../index-php/._nbsp.css;   It should be fabulous with foie gras or rich, creamy desserts.

Lyss Doux Muskat Ottonel 1999, Burgenland, Austria ($70.00) Muscat Ottonel is a younger member of the broader Muscat family - a cross between Muscat and Chasselas, it ripens late and is sensitive to noble rot, which makes it a prime varietal for creating a rich dessert wine. This late harvest wine fermented in Stainless Steel before it aged in barrels,  exhibits tastes of butter cream, ripe pear with flavors of baked apple, hints of chocolate, vanilla and spice, caramel and ripe gooseberry../index-php/._nbsp.css; Served cold, it is a dessert unto itself. It also pairs well with blue-veined cheeses, cheese cake, puddings and crème brûlée.





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Bubblies are always a hit at any celebration, including Thanksgiving. You'll be surprised at how well they pair with most of the eclectic offerings on the table../index-php/._nbsp.css;

From California to Italy, here are some good choices:


J Cuvée 20 Brut NV, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, CA ($28) This easy to drink Cuvée Brut is made with hand-harvested grapes – 54% chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir, and 2% Pinot Meunier – from the cool-climate vineyard sites in the Russian River Valley.  Gently pressed without destemming, the juice from each vineyard lot is fermented and kept separately until blending. After second fermentation in the bottle, the wine was aged for 2 years in the cellar and then an additional 6 months after disgorging../index-php/._nbsp.css; The wine opens with crisp clean aromas of toasted hazelnut and ripe apricots and is enlivened by lemon lime and ripe pear notes. It pairs well during social gatherings, with seafood such as scallops in citrus-based cream sauce, or salad with toasted nut; Parmesan and  Blue cheese.


J Brut Rosé, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, CA ($38). 66% Pinot Noir, 33% chardonnay and 1% Pinot Meunier grapes from J’s Estate Vineayrds in the Russian River Valley make for a gorgeous sparkling wine with a pink salmon hue, delicate aromas of strawberry, fresh cream and freshly baked brioche, flavors of tangerine, rose petal and raspberry and a bright, delightful acidity. It pairs superbly well with oysters, smoked salmon and cheese canapés


Délice, Chandon, Napa, CA ($24) is making its début onThanksgiving. A fruit-driven semi-sweet sparkling wine made with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier has a creamy, luscious mouthfeel with nectarine, pear, golden apple and ruby grapefruit flavors.  It is easy to drink and is a good match for spicy dishes, such as Thai curry, Cajun jambalaya and Mexican salsa. It pairs well with creamy cheeses of all kinds and rich desserts such as lemon meringue pie or crème brûlée.


Ferrari Perlé 2007, Trento D.O.C., Italy ($35) Made from 100% chardonnay sourced from vineyards owned by the Lunelli family on the Alps, hand harvested, processed by Méthode champenoise and matured for 5 years on selected yeasts, this is a dry, crisp, elegant  vintage Blanc de Blanc. Golden straw-colored with an intense and refined bouquet of almond blossom, apples, and hints of freshly baked crusty bread. It is  rich, creamy and zesty with complex notes of citrus, ripe apples and pears, yeast, sweet almonds and the lush fruit typical of Chardonnay, with a bright acidity and a refreshing finish. This is a seriously good wine that pairs with just about every food other than venison and grilled red meat.


Terredirai Prosecco Extra Dry DOC Treviso Millesimato 2013 ($12.99) This new line of Ca' di Rajo wines from Rai of San Polo in the Veneto, Treviso, is made from 100% Glera grapes with the charmat method. Bright, straw yellow with a delicate and persistent perlage, it is floral on the nose with notes of apple, lemon and grapefruit prolonged on the palate with added hints of peach and pineapple, bread crust and yeast.  This is a well-balanced, well-structured wine to be sipped cold as an aperitif; it stands up to tempura vegetables and seafood, raw oysters and crudos, cheeses, pastas and truffle dishes.   A good bargain.

harvestWinemaker reports from Oregon, Washington, New York and Virginia in a promising year

For the men and women who make wine, perhaps no word is more packed with nervous anticipation than "harvest." After months of spending time, sweat and money in their vineyards, it's the moment to see what nature delivered. For California, 2014 brought another year of record-breaking drought. For America's East Coast, winter brought a deep freeze. For much of Western Europe, 2014 was unpredictable, with sun, clouds and plenty of hail in some unfortunate spots.

In the second of five 2014 vintage reports, American vintners report good harvests on both the East Coast and the Pacific Northwest. In Washington and Oregon, sunshine was abundant and harvest came early. In Virginia and New York state, winter was brutal, but most vines survived and produced good fruit.

As for final quality in the bottle, it's too early to know, but here's a sneak peek:



Food & Wine Talk Radio

Achile Sassoli, Director of Gelato World Tour
and Gelato Artisans:
James Coleridge, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Abdelrahman Al Teneji, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Matthew Lee, Austin, Texas
Ahmed Abdullatif, Kingdom of Bahrain
Stefano Versace, Miami, Florida
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The House of Mandela Wines from South Africa


Chef Scott Conant: Scarpetta


Mark Schatzker, author of The Dorito Effect, The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor


Elizabeth Minchilli, author of  Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City.  


James Beard Award-winning wine journalist Lyn Farmer on: Garnacha from Carinena; the next great wine


Cindy Hutson,chef/owner, Ortanique and Zest, author of From the Tip of My Tongue


Lidia Batianich, celebrity chef, TV host, author and restaurateur 






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