Prosecco: Italy's Beloved Bubbly

With all due respect to the French, the world's favorite bubbly is now officially Italian.

cartizze-prosecco-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

After centuries of living in the shadow of Champagne, Italy's sparkling Prosecco has taken the globe by storm, outselling its French rival by a few million bottles and gaining such popularity in the UK that suppliers almost ran out in 2016. Champagne may have a corner on glamour, but the DOC and DOCG Prosecco has become universally beloved as an “everyday” bubbly, with an affordable price that belies its excellent quality and long history, and a crisp taste that makes it versatile enough to be used as a mixer, paired with savory dishes, or poured for a dessert toast.

Read More...

Women in Wine

A large number of Italy's most innovative wineries are run by women. We have been so struck by the excellent wines they are producing that we began collecting their labels for our home cellar a few years ago.

Succede alle cantine Caprai...(Photo by Michela Simoncini via Flickr)

Though there has been an association for women winemakers in Italy since 1988, and we have been searching out these interesting vintners for years, the recent increase of women in the Italian wine industry has begun to catch the attention of the international press.

Many of these female entrepeneurs have taken over family wineries, pairing tradition with progress, but others have founded new estates and built up their reputation from scratch. We often include these women-run wineries on our Italian travel itineraries that focus on food and wine. From organic to biodynamic, from Trentino to Sicily, from Prosecco to Chianti Classico, there is a wine to suit all tastes and budgets from Italy's donne del vino.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Read More...

Cocktails in Rome

Until very recently, Italy was not a country known for its mixology. With the exception of a limited number of homegrown aperitifs, your best bet for an evening drink was a glass of excellent local wine or, after dinner, an artisan digestivo. That has changed over the past few years, as the global cocktail trend has reached Italy and speakeasies and cocktail bars have come to replace the neighborhood café as the hip spot to unwind and socialize in the evening.

cocktail sunset roma(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Though you can order up a G&T with small batch gin and artisanal imported tonic even in the more fashionable provincial bars, the best cocktails are found in Italy's most cosmopolitan cities. Rome has become known as the nation's mixology capital: from swank rooftop lounges to trendy speakeasies, there are an array of interesting options in the Eternal City for an aperitivo or nightcap. Here are some of the current favorites: Read More...

What We're Drinking, Part 3: Outstanding Italian Beers On Our Table

It's that time of year again when festive menus are planned, hostess gifts purchased, and holiday wish lists compiled...which is why it's the perfect moment to update our annual roundup of what we've been drinking and collecting during the last 12 months of our Italian travels.

forst-beer-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Our past editions have focused on the quintessential Italian beverage: wine. Though domestic - or, more accurately, regional - reds and whites are still by far the most popular choice in Italy, the explosion of Italian craft beers over the past few years has drawn our attention and we have been impressed with the excellent brews that are on the market.

So the next time you are visiting the Bel Paese, or are looking for a unique gift or pairing during the holidays in the US, consider trying one of Italy's creative artisanal beers and be prepared to be pleasantly surprised!
Read More...

Beat the Summer Heat with Italian Wines

Beer is often the go-to summer beverage in the US, but there are some excellent lighter Italian wines which are perfect for your August barbeque, dinner party, or simply for quaffing chilled on the hottest afternoons of the year. If you're looking to add a little Italian flair to your summer, here are a few of our wine tips and suggestions for the season:

wine(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
Read More...

Wine Tasting in Chianti

There are few products in the world which came as close to being a victim of their own success as Chianti Classico, the iconic red wine produced in a small vineyard-covered area of Tuscany dotted with tiny hilltop villages, quiet country churches, and lone rustic castles, and criss-crossed by the kind of winding country roads that just beg to be explored.

IMG_2685(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)
Read More...

So You Want to Visit Vineyards in Italy?

Getting out into the Italian countryside, driving through the perfectly-aligned rows of grape vines capped with rose bushes at each end, and sampling little-known wines with the families who have been making them for generations – what could be a better way to spend an afternoon in Italy?

Young travelers at a vineyard, Tuscany(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

We have had unforgettable experiences and made life-long friendships while visiting small vineyards in Italy, while also discovering wines that we can’t wait to share. (You can see our favorite spots from 2013 and 2014.)
Read More...

What We're Drinking, Part 2: More Outstanding Italian Wines On Our Table

Fall seems like the perfect season for wine, perhaps because the crisp evenings call for cozy fireplaces and warming reds, and perhaps because wine is so closely linked to the months of September and October, when most vineyards in the northern hemisphere are harvested and the delicate process of fermentation begins to work its magic on the crushed grapes.

wine-barrels-chianti-tuscany-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

Which is why we thought we’d take a fresh look at our domestic cantina, which we last did almost two years ago, and share some of the great bottles we’ve discovered (and stockpiled) during the last few trips to Italy. Read More...

Italy's Bottle of Truth

Winemaking, like all agricultural processes, has a long chain of “moments of truth”. The most satisfying for the imbibing consumer is, of course, the final moment, when corks are popped and the finished product carefully poured and sipped.

grapes-fall-italy-cr-brian-dore(Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr)

But vintners know that this is just one of many important links in the chain. Before the pouring comes the bottling; before the bottling, the aging; before the aging, the fermentation; before the fermentation, the harvest.
Read More...

On the Plate and In the Glass in Piedmont's Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato

Though arguably all destinations in Italy could be considered a Shangri-La for lovers of excellent food and wine, nowhere is this more true than the Langhe-Roero and Monferrato wine country of southern Piedmont, just an hour by car from the bustling metropolis of Turin but worlds away in both pace and scenery.

castello-grinzane-cavour-langhe-italy-cr-brian-dorePhoto by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr

Le Langhe-Roero and Monferrato have recently gotten a bit of press, as they were added to the UNESCO’s register of World Heritage Sites in the first half of 2014. Citing the area’s uniquely beautiful landscapes—including five rolling wine growing districts, the Castle of Cavour, and pretty stone hilltowns of Serralunga, Nieve, Barolo, and Bra—and the long history of local winemaking—which has probably flourished since the time of the Etruscans five centuries before the birth of Christ—the UNESCO nomination only highlighted what lovers of Piedmont have known for years: this corner of Italy offers some of the most memorable meals (and photo-ops) in the entire country. Read More...

Bringing Food and Wine Souvenirs Back From Italy

You’ve traveled through Italy, enjoying the art and culture, trying out your newly-acquired Italian phrases on the locals, slowing down over a cappuccino or drinks in the piazza, and—most memorably—savoring some of the best meals of your life. It may be hard to recapture the Italian vibe at home, but you can try to recreate some of the Bel Paese’s iconic dishes. The easiest way, of course, would be to bring a sample of Italy’s excellent quality food back to the US with you, but it’s a good idea to be aware of which foods can and can’t be imported to avoid confiscation or hefty fines at the border. Read More...

In Season: Five Italian Fall Foods

If you are planning a fall visit to Italy, keep a lookout for these five terrific seasonal specialties on menus and in markets across the country: Read More...

La Vendemmia

As summer draws to a close, bringing shorter days and cooler nights, vineyards in the countryside from Piedmont to Puglia begin to buzz with the sound of rumbling tractors, chattering voices, and the clip of pruning shears. Read More...

What We're Drinking: Some of the Outstanding Italian Wines On Our Table

pouring italian wines
Image: © Concierge in Umbria

Wine is much more than something to sip, an accompaniment to a meal, or a gateway to an evening of merriment.

Great wine can transport you to places you’ve been – that enchanting pasta you can’t get out of your head or the calming view from the terrace of your favorite hotel – and places you want to be – that villa rental you’ve had your eye on or that bistecca fiorentina you can’t wait to sink your teeth into.

That’s why we like to keep a stock of excellent, hand-picked bottles of wine on hand. But if you’re anything like us, your stock may be hurting after the holidays. Over Christmas, we drained one of our favorites, a double magnum of Fanti’s Brunello di Montalcino, and can’t wait to stock up on some more.

With the new year come so many new reasons to celebrate, from the friendly rowdiness of a super bowl gathering (we’ve found that Italian wines work surprising well with chicken wings!) to the alluring calm of an evening together for Valentine’s day.

So here are seven amazing wines to top your table and fill your cellar, wine fridge, and belly:

Bubbly


Giulio Ferrari - Extra Brut


Though you’re not allowed to call it champagne outside France (in Italy it’s just metodo classico) Giulio Ferrari’s dry, crisp Extra Brut is our favorite Italian champagne. And it’s built to last! You can cellar this Extra Brut for up to twenty years. The highly flavored Extra Brut can range from brioche to chocolate to almond to cherries and cream depending on the year. As an added bonus, you don’t have to go to Trentino to try the whole Ferrari product line. The Lunelli family, owners of the Ferrari brand, recently started producing Montefalco wines just outside of Bevagna in Umbria and their sparkling wines are available for tasting.

White


Arnoldo Caprai Grecante Grechetto


When a renowned red wine producer in a primarily red-wine-producing appellation puts out a white wine, it’s worth a second glance. Grechetto has been grown in Italy since ancient times, but this Umbrian specialty is now regarded as one of Italy’s top white wine grapes. This excellent (and affordable) Grechetto bursts with fruit flavors and has a touch of sweetness that is well balanced by zesty crispness.

Antinori Cervaro della Sala


Antinori is literally a legend. The family has made wine for nearly 900 years and helped pioneer the Super-Tuscan revolution. But their Cervaro della Sala is, quite simply, one of the great white wines of Italy (perfect for cheering up a friend or brightening any occasion). Made in Umbria from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Grechetto grapes, the Cervaro seems light, but it’s built to age as well.

Ca Lojera Lugana


We first became acquainted with Ca Lojera because their owner is a huge opera fan whose stand at Vinitaly is decorated with a giant photo of Maria Callas, but we’ve put their Lugana into regular rotation during the summer because it’s a good everyday white. Produced on the southern shores of Lake Garda from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana grapes, the Lugana’s floral and fruity nose makes it a perfect pairing for a subtle pasta primo, such as the goat cheese and pumpkin ravioli we served it with for our first expat Thanksgiving dinner.

Reds


Podere la Cappella Corbezzolo


We also popped open a 2003 Corbezzolo for our first expat Thanksgiving, but unlike the light, crisp Lugana, this wine is meant for hearty food. We served it with mashed and roasted root vegetables that night. Podere la Cappella is a small vineyard that makes Chianti Classico in the bad years and standout Super Tuscans in the good years. Our clients love visiting this estate because it is the absolute embodiment of a hidden gem.

Allegrini Palazzo della Torre


We discovered this wine in 2006 on a visit to Verona in a simple osteria. (Where, by the way, Maria was a bit put off by the sheer amount of horse meat on the menu.) A blend of Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Sangiovese, the Palazzo della Torre stands out because 30% of its grapes are harvested late. This unusual technique lends a surprising sweetness to this red. You can find it readily in the U.S. It saved our dinner in Verona for Maria.

Fongoli Rosso di Montefalco Riserva


italian wines fongoli rosso di montefalco

Image: © Concierge in Umbria

The Fongoli family is among our oldest friends in Italy. They are also one of the oldest commercial producers in Montefalco and we've spent many holidays and special occasions with them. It doesn't hurt that they produce stellar wines. Their Rosso di Montefalco Riserva combines the best characteristics of Montepulciano, Merlot, and Sangiovese grapes, with depth and richness from Umbria’s darling, the Sagrantino grape, that has catapulted the region’s wines to global status.

Hard to Find, But Worth a Look


Castel del Monte Rosso Vigna Pedale Riserva 2008 – Torrevento


Some of our favorite dining experiences in Italy have been spent at our dear friend Salvatore Denaro’s highly-acclaimed, but now-shuttered Il Bacco Felice. While Denaro maintains close relations with many local wineries, the 2008 Castel del Monte Rosso Vigna Pedale Riserva Torrevento he served remains one of our favorite reds. This wine comes from Puglia, is affordable and was a staple at many a dinner party when we lived in Germany. It might not be available in the U.S., but grab it if you find it.

And if you’d like to visit vineyards, vintners, and their vintages in person to select you own house wine, let us know. Italy has so many hard-to-find-in-the-U.S. wines that can make your cellar stand out. And we know many of Italy’s most prestigious wine makers personally. It’s our pleasure (and theirs) to share these wines with you.

brian maria gabriella signature

Brian Dore and Maria Gabriella Landers | Contact Us
Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist: Italy