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Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci appears in debut issue @GrapeCollective

Please click here for veteran wine writer Anthony Giglio’s excellent article on the history of wine in Montalcino for the debut issue of the Grape Collective, the hottest new wine-focused publication today.

And please see below an interview with Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci, whose wines were featured in Giglio’s piece.

Sangiovese: Italy’s quintessential red grape

sangiovese grapes

Above: The glorious Sangiovese grape, the variety behind some of Italy’s greatest wines.

A few weeks ago, the great American wine writer Eric Asimov, who writes a weekly column for the New York Times, outed himself on social media.

“I’m having a love affair with the Sangiovese grape,” he wrote on his Twitter, “and I don’t care who knows about it.”

What’s all the excitement about?

The answer: Sangiovese, Italy’s quintessential red grape, grown in every one of Italy’s 20 regions, and vilified most famously in Tuscany, where it is used to make some of the most coveted wines in the world.

One of the things that makes Sangiovese so unique is the fact that it is a thin-skinned but tannic red grape (wine gets its tannin from the skin of the grape). As a result, it can produce a wine that is light in body but that also has great nuance and structure, as they say in the wine trade.

The other thing about Sangiovese is its unmistakable plum and red fruit flavors that make it a favorite pairing — in Italy and beyond — for roast and grilled meats.

The best known “expression” of Sangiovese is Brunello di Montalcino, an appellation where it is vilified as a monovarietal wine, in other words, a single-grape wine.

Alessandro Bindocci, the winemaker behind Mazzoni Toscana Rosso, produces one of the most prestigious Brunellos at the estate where his family has worked for four generations, Tenuta Il Poggione (Eric is a big fan of their wine).

But knowing that wine lovers can’t drink Brunello every night (it’s really a “special occasion” wine), Alessandro created the Mazzoni Toscana Rosso — a blend of Sangiovese, grown on the same estate where the Brunello is produced, and Merlot — to give Sangiovese fans a more approachable, ready-to-drink version of his family’s wines.

The young Sangiovese vines used to make it give the wine the zinging vibrancy and freshness that you need in a food-friendly wine. And the Merlot gives it some extra depth and nuance.

The world’s most food-friendly grape: Barbera (goes great with Thanksgiving)

italian thanksgiving

Above: Every year, wine lovers in the U.S. face the same conundrum. What to pair with Thanksgiving turkey? The answer for the ages is “Barbera, the world’s most food-friendly wine grape.”

There’s a saying that you’ll often hear repeated in Italy among wine and food lovers.

No wine without food and no food without wine.

Indeed, you’ll never be seated at lunch or dinner in Italy without there being wine on the table.

And you’ll never sit down to a glass of wine without at least some food — even just a nosh — served to accompany it.

In fact, Italians hold that wine is food (and in another era, wine was an essential source of nutrients in rural areas, especially during cold winter months when fresh fruit and vegetables weren’t readily available).

Of all the myriad food-friendly red grapes in Italy, Barbera — particularly in the north of the country — is arguably the most popular and the one most commonly found in Italians’ homes.

With its bright fruit flavors, freshness, and crisp mouthfeel, it’s not a stretch to call it the most food-friendly wine in the world.

And that’s why Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci believes that it’s also the best wine to serve at the Thanksgiving feast.

There are so many different flavors at the traditional Thanksgiving meal in the U.S.: savory, sweet, and tart.

A wine with too much tannin will overpower many of the Thanksgiving foods.

And a wine without enough acidity will be overwhelmed by the variety of flavors.

Barbera has just the right balance of gentle, smooth tannin and freshness of flavor to go with just about anything your relatives may serve up.

The bottom line is that Alessandro created this wine — sourced from top vineyards in Italy’s northwest — because he wanted a clean, focused, and utterly delicious red wine to serve in his own home in Tuscany (where the wines tend to fall on the heavier side).

The beauty of Tuscany

beautiful tuscany

Here on the Live Like an Italian blog, we spend so much time talking about the Italian lifestyle that we often forget to take time out to remember just how beautiful Italy is.

Maybe one of the reasons that Italians have produced so many breathtaking works of art is that they are surrounded by immeasurable natural beauty.

Alessandro Bindocci, the young winemaker behind the Mazzoni line of wines, sent us this lovely image of fall in Tuscany today.

Just sit back, relax, and breath it in… the beauty of Italy…

Seafood: it’s what’s for dinner in Tuscany (what?)

gambero rosso

Above: Some of Italy’s best seafood is found along the Tuscan coast. That’s one of the reasons that Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci created his Vermentino-Chardonnay blend.

When most Americans think of Tuscany and its wonderful food, they think of rich red wines paired with liver pâté crostini, wild boar ragù over pici (long, handmade noodles), and the famous bistecca fiorentina, the hearty “Florentine steak,” the porter-house of Italy.

But what so many of us don’t realize is that Tuscany is also home to some of the greatest seafood and fish restaurants in all of Europe.

After all, the entire western border of Tuscany lies on the Mediterranean sea and the region is also home to one of the most important ports of southern Europe, the city of Livorno.

All along the Tuscan coast, you’ll find wonderful little towns and villages, each with their favorite seafood spot.

Like many Tuscans who live inland, Mazzoni winemaker Alessandro Bindocci takes his summer vacation on the Tuscan seaside.

“It’s actually just forty minutes from my house,” he says. “So many people don’t realize how important the sea and the beach are to our lives here.”

His love of the Tuscan riviera and his passion for its seafood led Alessandro to create his Mazzoni Vermentino-Chardonnay blend, made from grapes grown in the hills along the coast.

“The sea breeze helps to keep the grapes cool and ventilated during the summer,” he explains, “and that’s what makes our Vermentino-Chardonnay such a wonderfully fresh white wine — ideal with Tuscan seafood.”

“Vermentino is a native grape of Tuscany, known for its bright crispness,” he says with obvious Tuscan pride. “And we add the Chardonnay, one of the world’s greatest white grapes, to give the wine more structure. It’s a wine that we love to drink at home and at the beach during the summer.”

Eat like an Italian: olive oil trumps Parmigiano Reggiano when it comes to Tuscan winter soups

ribollita tuscan bread soup

Don’t get us wrong: we have nothing against Parmigiano Reggiano, the classic grating cheese that can only be produced in the provinces of Parma and Reggio Emilia in Emilia-Romagna.

We love topping our ragù alla bolognese or our lasagne alla bolognese with an extra helping of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

And we love eggplant layered with Parmigiano Reggiano, a dish that combines one of the great food products of the north with one of the staples of southern Italian cuisine.

But when it comes to the winter soups of Tuscany, like ribollita, the “twice cooked” bread soup (made with stale bread, Swiss chard, and cannellini beans), we have to insist that the dish be finished with a generous drizzle of Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil. Anything else would be sacrilege!

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