Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Floating on a Sea of Croatian Cheese

Read about the Croatian island of Pag, aka the island of wee sheep, aka The Magical Island of Cheese, and learn what it'd be like to own a dairy on the moon. Below are a few of the photos that didn't make it into the article above.

When I like to get cheesy, I like to get microwaved-Velveeta cheesy, so that my prose oozes off the screen and onto the keyboard...

So we got to Paska Sirana dairy and saw this sign...

Naturally, we undressed, then we put on the traditional costume of the locals... Some taking it better...

Than others....

The dairy workers had stayed late to show us how Pag cheese is made...

Ante Ostaric led the lesson...

Inside the dairy, the whole world was cheese...

And we ate it. The sage was particularly popular.

Thanks again Paska Sirana!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gettin' Randy with Croatian Food

One of the greatest of all Roman emperors, Emperor Diocletian, lived along Croatia's Dalmatian Coast. Here retired, actually giving his throne away, and immediately grew paranoid. Instead of chillin' on one of Croatia's 2,244 islands, he built a giant palace. But he was so freaked out by assassins that he built only one entrance and zero—that's right, zero—windows. Imagine being king of the world but not being able to look outside?

Today, that palace is the Croatian city of Split, where everything that you eat is an aphrodisiac, and, yes, this article will make you very, very horny: Eating the Adriatic - From Split and Sibenik with Love and Wine

For Straight-Up Food Shots, click here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Welcome to the Wine Scene on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast

The Ravenous Traveler strikes again: I get really buzzed with a bunch of old Croatian men in a local bar. Check out the latest travelogue article: The Dalmatian Wine Scene. Photos included, plus I drink plavac mali, a relative of zinfandel, and I learned a ton about the different growing regions on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast. This article will definitely help anyone planning a wine tasting trip on the Dalmatian Coast. The most important growing region is Dingac, which is about and hour and a half drive from Dubrovnik. I include wine tasting hours, prices, and a handful of winery recommendations. Hope it's helpful!

Cheers to all the great wineries in Croatia! I'll still salivating... which is kind of gross.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Puglia Wine Review, November 3, 2011

I'm on the fourth week of an Adriatic press trip (to see how ridiculously drunk I've been getting, follow @ravenoustravelr) but haven't drunk any Puglia wines. I'm heading to Puglia in four days, so look for a complete Puglia Wine Review on December 1st.

From the Archives
: Top 10 Negroamaro, "Holy Guacamole Batman, This Is Good"

Negroamaro is the most important red grape grown in Puglia, and I've heard enologists say that over 80% of Puglia's grapevines are Negroamaro. I believe that Negroamaro demonstrates the region's terroir better than any other because it is native to Puglia, it is has been celebrated in the region for thousands of years, and winemakers in the region have developed a particular style. As for flavor profile, wines made with Negroamaro are light to medium bodied, with sun-soaked fruit that can be dried, dark, and bright all at the same time, and the mouthfeel is striking: it feels, at times, like you're drinking silk. Other common flavors are smoke, plum, and herbs. These wines are intensly friendly and approachable. I highly recommend tasting rosés made with Negroamaro, too (click for my Top 5 Best Puglia Rosés List). (Below: Map of Puglia courtesy of Italian Flavor Consortium).

Luckily, Negroamaro is a good and unique wine as well as a cheap wine. I'd say that every winemaker in Puglia makes two mono-varietals with Negroamaro, one of which is aged in oak and one that is made to be drank young and fresh using stainless steel. It is also very common to blend the grape with Malvasia Nera, notably, in the Salice Salentino DOC. Salice Salentino is a town near the city of Lecce on the Salento Peninsula in the Puglia region of Italy. I've spent many hours bicycling its roads between wineries. The Salice Salentino DOC can be found throughout the U.S. at low prices, and the percentage of Negroamaro is at least 80%. I believe that mono-varietals made with Negroamaro showcase the region's terroir better than blends. However, the Salice Salentino is both too delicious and too popular to leave off of this list. A quick shout-out to the Copertino DOC (made in a town just south of Salice Salentino), which is difficult to find, but which also showcases Negroamaro (at least 70%). There are only 5 or so producers of the Copertino DOC, but these wines are of the highest quality.

To make wines with Negroamaro that are capable of aging, winemakers often blend it with grapes that have high levels of tannins. Negroamaro's tannins are commonly referred to as "soft" or "light." For example, Winemaker Massimiliano Apollonio of Apollonio Winery pairs Negroamaro with Montepulciano (with both grapes grown in Salento) because their tannins unite to create something greater than either could alone. Let's just say, yum. Agricole Vallone makes a mono-varietal wine that can be aged by using the process made famous by Amarone wines: they rest the freshly harvested Negroamaro grapes on racks for over a month before pressing them. This wine is prohibitively expensive however.

Before I get to the list I'd like to help dispell one myth about Negroamaro. The etymology of the name leads some folks to think that negro amaro means negro=black and amaro=bitter. In Italy, an amaro liquor is a liquor made with herbs, viz. a bitter. This misunderstanding has lead some wine reviewers to say that wines with Negroamaro have a slightly bitter finish. This is untrue 99% of the time. Further, the grape's origin goes so far back that you have to look at the Greek language. The Greeks inhabited Puglia for well over a thousand years. Northern Italians love to point out that the dialects spoken in Puglia are indecipherable because they are primarily Greek-based rather than Latin-based. Anyway, the root amaro, when you look at its Greek origin, actually means black, so Negroamaro means blackest of the black. Dr. Parzen at Do Biachi writes eloquently on the subject.

And here's what you've been waiting for: the 10 Best Negroamaro Wines Produced in Puglia

1) 2004 “Graticciaia” (100% Negroamaro) by Agricola Vallone
2) 2000 “Divoto” Rosso Riserva Copertino DOC (70% Negroamaro, 30% Montepulciano) by Apollonio
3) 2003 "Notarpanaro" (85% Negroamaro, 15% Malvasia Nera) by Taurino (my next post will focus on this wine and its availability. Available online $16)
4) 2005 “Cappello Di Prete” ( 100% Negroamaro) by Candido
5) 2004 “Suavitas” Le Riserva Salice Salentino DOC (Negroamaro, Malvasia Nera [amounts not specified]) by Ionis
6) 2003 “Piromáfo” Salento IGT (100% Negroamaro) by Valle dell'Asso
7) 2004 “Eloquenzia” (100% Negroamaro) by Azienda Monaci
8) 2006 "Capoposto" Negroamaro IGT (100% Negroamaro) by Alberto Longo (available online $22)
9) 2003 “Patriglione” (90% Negroamaro, 10% Malvasia Nera) by Taurino Winery
10) 2008 “Liante” Salice Salentino (80% Negroamaro, 20% Malvasia Nera di Lecce) by Castello Monaci (available online $16)

Celebrate the Holidays With New Washington Grape Varieties

Looking for a rare and unusual wine to sip with Christmas dinner or on New Year's Eve? It's easy to throw cash at a well-known bottl...