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Posts tagged ‘Italy’

This wine made my day

I’m studying for the Italian Wine Specialist certification through the North American Sommelier Association. Today, I brought a bottle to share with the class….

Abissi
Spumante Metodo Classico
Appinato nei fondali dell’area marina
Portofino 2010

IMG_20140509_150900_263 IMG_20140509_150936_274

Typically Ligurian wine is lean, acidic, mineral, sapid — showing the vineyards’ proximity to the sea (even when not aged under water). This wine is made from Bianchetta and Vermentino. In the glass it shows a pale golden-yellow with greenish reflections, and fine, moderately persistent bubbles. The aroma offers lemon peel, other citrus, and dried flower petals with a subtle hints of green apple. On the palate it is soft, leading into white peach followed by bracing acidity and a dry, mineral finish.

It deserves the DOC created for it.

The 2010 is sold out, but I’ve just ordered the 2011.

Orange wines – history and soul in a bottle

Recently I attended a seminar on Ribolla Gialla from Oslavia. Oslavia is in the Collio DOC, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The area borders Slovenia, and the people and winemaking traditions are the same on both sides of the border.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Terroir

As far east as it’s possible to go in Italy, Collio is a short distance from the Julian Alps and the Adriatic Sea. The mountains help protect the area from the cold of central Europe. The sea moderates temperatures, keeping it warmer in winter and cooler in summer. There is a constant wind, known as the Bora, that gives the vineyards a unique air flow. Collio features sloped, terraced vineyards and soil – called “ponca” in dialect – that gives lots of minerality to the wines. Ponca, or flysch, has layers and blends of minerals from the prehistoric sea bed, clay and sandstone.

History and philosophy

The history of the region is important background to the making of today’s orange wine. Oslavia (Brda in Slovenian) was badly affected the two world wars. No other part of Italy was so destroyed or was divided in the postwar power struggle between Russia and the US. An artificial border was drawn between Italy and Slovenia (then Yugoslavia), sometimes dividing families, even splitting vineyards. All current vineyards have been rebuilt since the war.

Collio DOC – Oslavia is in the east

Before the war, the land was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had a taste for white wines. When Collio became part of Italy, the people were suddenly joined to a predominantly red wine-drinking culture. As a result, part of their winemaking style and philosophy is to treat the white grape as if it were a red grape. The grape in question: Ribolla Gialla.

Documents dating back to the 1300s show that Ribolla Gialla was planted in the region. When winemakers rebuilt after the war, they chose this grape because of its romantic and historical connection to the land. However, in the 1960s, with the internationalization of the wine industry, many of the vines were ripped out and replaced with international grapes. As as result, Ribolla Gialla almost became extinct. A group of producers were committed to indigenous grapes and at the beginning of the 1990s began the School of Oslavia. They rediscovered Ribolla Gialla – as well as traditional winemaking techniques – and brought back these orange wines.

Their philosophy is simple:

  • Respect for the territory and the creation of a new awareness and esteem for its native grape varities.
  • Healthy grapes means no pesticides, herbicides or chemicals in the vineyard.
  • Only use indigenous yeast.
  • No sulfites
  • Skin contact during maceration for color, tannins, and minerals.

These producers are: Dario Princic (Princic), Nicolo Bensa (La Castellada), Silvan Primosic (Primosic), Rinaldo Fiegel (Fiegel), Stanko Radikon (Radikon) and Franco Sosol (Il Carpino). They describe their mission this way: “It was a rediscovering, because this is not a new way of making wine, rather an old one, utilizing the viticultural and oenological techniques of a century ago.” Everything is natural in the vineyard and the cellar. They don’t talk about “biodynamic” and “organic” – they just do what their grandfathers did.

These wines need time; when you go to serve them open the bottle six to eight hours in advance. You can taste them over as long a period as seven days – they will keep changing, but the natural oxidation of the wine will keep them alive and interesting. In addition, these wines age very well. I recommend buying more than one bottle and tasting them over several years.

Tasting notes

We tasted six wines, with different amounts of skin contact. None of the wines see any refrigeration during the winemaking process. Drink the wines slightly chilled, at red-wine temperature. The darker orange the wine, the warmer the temperature at which you want to drink it. Orange wines pair well with meat such as lamb, pork, and sausage. By Italian standards, the wines have high alcohol, all between 12.5% and 13.5%.

wines on the tasting mat

Wines with little skin contact

These two wines have only 8-12 hours of skin contact. They are aged in Slovenian oak barrels.

2007 Fiegl Collio Ribolla Gialla
Almost golden in color, brilliant.
Nose: Dry apricot, dry flowers, honey, minerality
Palate: Dense, honey, minerality, sapid. Balanced, with a long finish.

2008 Primosic Collio Ribolla Gialla
Golden color, brilliant.
Nose: Chamomile, more floral than the Fiegl, sweet spices
Palate: Floral, minerality, ginger and other spices. Dense, with a long finish.

Wines with longer skin contact

These two wines have 15-20 days skin contact. They are aged in oak barrels for up to three years before bottling.

2008 Il Carpino Ribolla Gialla IGT
Darker golden color, consistent.
Nose: Some oxydation, dry stone fruit, wet soil, wet chalk, wet leaves (earthy)
Palate: Bolder, spicy, lots of ginger.

2007 La Castellada Collio Ribolla Gialla
Light amber in color, consistent.
Nose: Dry flowers, sweet spices (cinnamon), oxydation
Palate: Rich. Bold. Tannins well integrated, minerality, high acid. Honey, spices.
(This was my favorite of the six wines.)

Even more skin contact

These two wines have 30-45 days skin contact. They show stronger oxydation, and plenty of skin tannin. These are orange wines to pair with red meat.

2005 Princic Collio Ribolla Gialla
Dark amber, brilliant, some sediment
Nose: Dates, fig, Asian spices, tea leaves, honey, dry flowers. Oxydation offering musk and earthiness.
Palate: Tannins present. Full body. High acid, lots of minerality. Very long honey finish.
This wine could age more – it lacked some integration.

2006 Radikon Ribolla Gialla IGT
Radikon was the first of these winemakers to experiment with the traditional grape. He really pushes the group forward.
Dark amber, some sediment
Nose: Stronger oxydation, honey, spices, earthiness.
Palate: Integrated tannins. Thick on the palate, but soft. Very long honey finish.

Modern Blends from Italy

International Grapes

Italy has more than 600 indigenous grapes – more than any other country in the world. So why would Italian wine producers turn to international grapes? I’ve just attended a tasting that attempted to answer that question with nine wines.

The international grapes are those that are planted in many wine-growing regions around the world. Most experts agree on the following list: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurtztraminer, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, and Syrah.

International Varietals

There are three main reasons Italians might make wine from non-native grapes. First of all, international grapes are relatively easy to grow. Second, they also have wide consumer recognition. Finally, you can blend them with indigenous grapes to get the flavor you want – in Italy these wines are not governed by either law or tradition.

The issue with wines made from international grapes is this: can and do they reflect terroir, or are they only made to please the (export) public?

The most famous of the Italian wines made from international grapes are the Super Tuscans. They were created in the 1970s to gain US market share from the French. Also, producers wanted to ignore the DOC/DOCG regulations make make what they wanted to make. Ironically, many of the original Super Tuscans now qualify as DOC or DOCG wines, although some producers still prefer to use the IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica) classification of Toscana.

 

Wine Notes

All of these are good wines. Whether or not they reflect terroir depends on the native grapes blended with the international grapes. Whether or not reflecting terroir is important is a matter of individual choice.

Whites

Producer: Castello di Ama
Name: Al Poggio 2009

Region: Tuscany
Grapes: 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Grigio
This producer is best known for Chianti Classico. They consider this an entry-level white wine.
Very pale yellow, fresh, elegant. Made in a light style. Aged a few months in used barrique.
Nose: grass, white flower, white peach, a little bit of spicines
Palate: soft, low acid, good minerality

Producer: Bastianich (Yes, it’s Chef Lidia Bastianich’s family.)
Name: Vespa Bianco 2008

Region: Fruili Venezia Giulia
Grapes: 45% Chardonnay, 45% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Picolit (an especially difficult grape to grow)
Vespa means wasp; Picolit is known to attract a lot if insects. Aged in barrels.
Pale yellow, clear. Very elegant, although high in alcohol at around 14%.
Nose: almond, green, citrus, apple
Palate: vanilla, fresh, high acid, long finish

Producer: Castello della Sala (Antinori)
Name: Cervaro della Sala 2008

Region: Umbria
Grapes: 85% Chardonnay, 15% Grechetto
The Antinori family has been making near Florence for 700 years. They bought the property in Umbria around 50 years ago.
Darker yellow, almost gold. Transparent rim shows aging in barrel (8 months in French oak)
Nose: intense – oak, yellow fruit, sweet spices
Palate: rich, full for an Italian white, dense buttery feeling

Super Tuscans

Wine regions in Tuscany

Producer: Villa di Capezzana
Name: Carmignano 2006

Grapes: 80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon
This wine is made west of Florence, in an area cooler than most of Tuscany. Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in this region around 200 years ago. Garnet red.
Nose: red berry, anise, earthy, dry herbs
Palate: fruit tannins that are a bit harsh, high acid, minerality, savory/umami mushroom

Producer: Argiano
Name: NC Non Confunditur 2008 Rosso Toscana 2008

Grapes: 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese
The name “Non Confunditur” means “Don’t get confused.” The producer wants to ensure you that it’s not their usual wine. Dark garnet color.
Nose: blackberry, black cherry, pepper, bell pepper. intense, ripe fruit.
Palate: juicy, round, soft tannins, medium body

Producer: Antinori
Name: Tignanello 2007

Grapes: 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon 5% Cabernet Franc
This producer made pretty much the first Super Tuscan. They used to make Chianti Classico, until they decided to do something different. Aged in French barrique for almost two years.
Very age-worthy wine. (In general, age-worthy Super Tuscans can age 15-20 years, but after that they go downhill.) Garnet red.
Nose: dry fruit, tobacco, dry herbs, anise – very complex.
Palate: fruit, acid, dense and soft. full bodied with well-integrated tannins.

Other Reds

Producer: Conterno Fantino
Name: MonPrà 2009

Region: Piemonte (Langhe)
Grapes: 45% Nebbiolo, 45% Barbera, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
High alcohol wine, aged in French oak. Medium red color.
Nose: berries (both dark and red), sweet spices, roses from the Nebbiolo
Palate: orange peel, juicy, some weight, high acid, persistent finish

Producer: Gaja
Name: Langhe Sito Moresco 2008

Region: Piemonte
Grapes: 35% Nebbiolo, 35% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon
They were one of the first in the region to introduce international grapes. This wine is made in a more modern style, and meant to be affordable wine. Aged in French barrels for less than a year. Ruby red color.
Nose: floral (rose) and bell pepper
Palate: creaminess, round, soft. non-aggressive tannins. ripe fruit. nice finish.

Producer: Donnafugata
Name: Contessa Entellina Tancredi 2007

Region: Sicily
Grapes: 70% Nero d’Avola, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon
Very dark red, showing a little bit of age.
Nose: very intense – spice, pepper, dark fruit, leather, some cinnamon from the oak.
Palate: long finish, some tannins, vanilla from the oak

Three Big B’s of Italy: Barbaresco, Barolo and Brunello

This week for Italian Wine Night I took another class at the San Francisco Wine Center, also taught by Mauro Cirilli. We drank an extraordinary selection of wines, whilst learning about Barbaresco, Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino.

Barbaresco and Barolo

Barbaresco comes from the Piedmont region, in an area of the Langhe immediately to the east of Alba and from the communities of Barbaresco, Treiso and Neive. It is made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes. Barolo, from only about 20 km away and also made from 100% Nebbiolo, nevertheless very distinctive wine.

Barbaresco receives a slight maritime influence, which allows the grapes to ripen a little earlier and have a shorter maceration time. Thus the tannins in a young Barbaresco are less harsh than a in a young Barolo. Under DOCG rules, Barbaresco is allowed to age a year less than Barolo. The biggest difference between the two wines is that the tannins of Barbaresco tend to soften quicker – making the wines more approachable when young. Because of that, however, a Barbaresco won’t age as long as a traditionally-made Barolo.

A few more points of comparison and contrast:

  Barbaresco Barolo
Style, Nickname more feminine, “Wine of the Queen” more masculine, “Wine of the King”
Region Piedmont Piedmont
Grape 100% Nebbiolo 100% Nebbiolo
Aging Requirements 26 months, 50 months for Riserva 38 months, 62 months for Riserva

Barbaresco Tasting Notes

Produttori del Barbaresco Riserva Paje 2006
Very traditional style. Aged 36 months in huge barrels of Slovenian oak. Approx $40 retail.
Color: Light garnet
Nose: Red fruit, mint, herbs
Palate: Warm, astringent, red fruit, licorice, mineral finish – wants rich food

Moccagatta 2004
New style; won’t age as long as the traditional. Aged 12 months in barrique. Approx $50 retail.
Color: A little orange-y
Nose: Dry fruit, cherry, vanilla, spice
Palate: Warm, rich, earthy, full-bodied

Barolo Tasting Notes

Comm. Burlotto Monvigliero 2000
150-year old producer, very traditional – still even crushes by feet! Open vat fermentation, 30-40 days maceration. Aged 30 months in large Slovenian oak barrels. Approx $70 retail.
Color: Very light, almost transparent. Shows a bit of age.
Nose: Olives, dry red fruit, orange zest, anise, dust
Palate: Lighter, elegant, very little tannin. Dry herbs, dry fruit. Long finish.

Vietti Rocche 2005
Single vineyard. 2005 was a difficult vintage. Aged 34 months in Slovenian oak barrels. Approx $130 retail.
Color: Darker, no sign of age
Nose: Dry red fruit, cinnamon, orange peel, fresh violet
Palate: Warmer, weightier, acidic. Oak and fruit tannins. Fennel, licorice, spice.

Luigi Einaudi Costa Grimaldi 2006
Another difficult vintage. Modern style. Approx $90 retail.
Color: Garnet, no orange, concentrated
Nose: Red fruit, vanilla
Palate: Very warm, full-bodied, aggressive tannin and acid. Ripe fruit, tart cherry, dried red fruit.

Brunello di Montalcino

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Italian wine night #4 – 10 varietals from Italy

Last week I took a class at the San Francisco Wine Center, taught by Mauro Cirilli, formerly wine director at Perbacco and now NorCal District Manager for North American Sommelier Association – Indigenous Varities of Italy. He quickly taught us about 10 varietals, of the 600 or so grown in Italy.

Lots of fun, and here are my tasting notes:

Whites

BioVio Riviera Ligure di Ponente Pigato di Albenga 2010 (Liguria)
Light, fresh, with greenish hues. Nose: mineral salts, kumquat, apricot, basil, thyme. Palate: bone dry, high acid, saltiness, minerality.

Aia Vecchia Vermentino 2010 (Maremma, Toscana)
Very pale color. Nose: not very aromatic, orange peel, pear, a little grass. Palate: Dry, a bit warm.

Vietti Arneis 2010 (Roero, Piemonte)
Pale color. Nose: very aromatic, almond, pear, honeysuckle. Palate: dry, soft, fresh, low acid.

Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 1998 (Abruzzo)
Brilliant golden-yellow, clean. Nose: intense, complex. Ripe apple, dry fig, nutty, toasty, cardamom. Palate: dry, weighty, warm.

 

Reds

Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco Grasparossi di Castelvetro Enrico Cialdini NV (Emilia Romagna)
Ruby color, effervescent. Nose: grapey, berry, violet. Palate: red fruit.

Castello di Verduno Pelaverga Basadone 2010 (Piemonte)
Pale ruby color. Nose: black pepper, tart red cherry, raspberry. Palate: dry, high acid, low tannin, light body.

Cataldi Madonna Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008 (Abruzzo)
Ruby color. Nose: plum, currant, dry violet, cinnamon. Palate: dry, acidic, light, fruit tanins, medium body.

Cantina Andrian Lagrein Riserva Tor di Lupo 2008 (Trentino Alto-Adige)
Very dark color, inky. Nose: spice, violet, vanilla, forest berries, cocoa. Palate: dry, warm, soft, weighty, forest berries, cocoa, juniper, medium tannins.

Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino Montefalco 2000 (Umbria)
Ruby red, barely shows its age in the color. Nose: blackberry jam, tobacco, dry rosemary, hint of black truffle. Palate: dry, warm, still tannic. Alcohol level is American-high – around 14%.

Cantine del Notaio Aglianico del Vulture La Firma 2007 (Basilicata)
Dark color. Nose: dry black fruit, toastiness, cinnamon, paprika. Palate: dry, minerality, salty finish, tannins are present but not aggressive.

Italian wine night #3 – this time with pizza!

This wine night featured an unspectacular attempt at pizza (someday I’m going to be proud of my crust), dramatically improved by a delightful, easy-drinking Nebbiolo: 2010 Elio Grasso Langhe Nebbiolo Gavarini (Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Langhe DOC).

The Elio Grasso estate has a productive vineyard holding of 14 hectares. The producer uses only estate-grown grapes from varieties traditionally grown in the Langhe hill country near Alba.

Technical information: Langhe Nebbiolo

Municipality of production: Monforte d’Alba
Grape: Nebbiolo
First vintage: 1987
Number of bottles produced each year: 6,500
Vineyard area under vine: 1.2 hectares
Aspect and height above sea level: south-facing, 350-380 metres
Soil type: moderately loose-packed, limestone-based
Vine training system and planting density: Guyot-trained at 4,500 vines per hectare.
Average age of productive vines: 15 years
Grape yield per hectare at harvest: 60 quintals
Harvest period and method: first 10 days of October, manual harvest. The vinification procedure for Langhe Nebbiolo involves fermentation for 7-8 days in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with daily pumping over. After malolactic fermentation, the wine stays in stainless steel until bottling in April-May.

Now drink it!

On the nose: Red berries, red cherry, and, I think, rose petals and spice
On the palate: Spicy and floral, with raspberry and cocoa hiding in there somewhere. Soft tannins, and a short but balanced finish.

Enjoyable wine, great with the pizza, would be yummy with a variety of foods. The producer recommends drinking this wine in the first 3-4 years after the vintage. True, it did not taste too young, but I think it could age longer than that.

Italian Wine Night #2

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Gung Hei Fat Choi aka Conversational Italian, Week 1

On Monday evenings I’m now taking Conversational Italian at City College because my Italian, is, well, rusty. Class was supposed to start tonight. City College, however, was closed for Lunar New Year. Which is great – although they could have maybe told their students about it? 

Anyway, I’ve decided that Monday nights are Italian Wine Night chez moi – and I started this week despite not having class. (Hey – I met a bunch of interesting people as we walked around the building trying to find an unlocked door!)

For Week 1, I opened a favorite: Argiolas Korem 2008

Korem 2008

Opaque ruby-red in color, this is a sophisticated and lightly tannic wine with layered aromas of wild berries, smoke, chocolate and a touch of savory spice. Alcohol by volume: 14.5% 60% Bovale Sardo, 20% Carignano and 20% Cannonau. It spent 12 months in French oak barrels, 50% new.

I should have cooked dinner instead of deciding I was too tired to eat. This is a wine that deserves good food to go along with it. Roast lamb. Even some lovely strong cheese, which sadly I didn’t have in the house. I might just have to make something fancy for the second half of the bottle….”

Cantine Argiolas

The wine highlight of our Sardegna trip was definitely the afternoon spent at the beautiful and newly-remodeled Cantine Argiolas. Courtyard of Cantine ArgiolasThe Argiolas family has worked diligently to become the leaders in Sardinian wine making and insist on using only native Sardinian vines: Nuragus and Vermentino for white wines and Cannonau, Monica, Carignano and Bovale Sardo for reds.

The history of Argiolas began in 1918, when Francesco Argiolas planted his first vineyards. But it was not until Antonio Argiolas, took the helm of the winery that a new way of running the business began. A man of great enthusiasm and long experience in viticulture, Antonio purchased new properties with the aim of setting up a modern estate. He wrote, “A good wine comes not only from technique. It comes also from humility, passion, love and care for the vineyards and their products. I received this philosophy as a gift of nature, and I gave it to my sons and to anyone who has joined me in this extraordinary adventure.”

At the end of the 70’s, Antonio’s sons Franco and Giuseppe Argiolas gradually began reorganizing and modernizing all aspects of the business, from the techniques used in the vineyards to technological innovation in the cellars. More recently, they’ve hired Giacomo Tachis, one of Italy’s leading oenologists.

I’ve been a fan of their wines for a number of years, and could not pass up the chance to visit in person. They were incredibly gracious – even with much of the hospitality group in Verona for VinItalia, we were welcomed for a tasting of nearly all of their wines (as well as the olive oil they now produce).

Argiolas tasting room

Their lovely tasting room

Some favorites:

Cerdeña: Cerdena This is an outstanding white wine, made from Vermentino plus small quantities of other local grapes. The wine, which has the name of the island in the Catalan language, is obtained by a soft pressing of grape. Cerdeña is fermented (both alcoholic and malolactic) in cask and is aged in barrique for 6-8 months followed by 6-8 months in bottle. The wine shows a soft golden yellow color. The nose reveals intense aromas of pineapple, kiwi, lychee, and vanilla. There’s a long finish with flavors of hazelnut, kiwi, banana and vanilla.
Food pairing suggestions: Cheese! Also roasted fish, or maybe stuffed pasta.

Turriga Isola dei Nuraghi: Turriga Their most famed wine, Turriga, is produced with grapes harvested in the Turriga vineyard in the Selgias area. Only Sardinian grapes, Cannonau, Carignano, Bovale Sardo and Malvasia Nera, are used for this wine. Production of about 1 Kg per vine, (about 2.2 lbs.) allow the creation of this important and very interesting red wine. Must is macerated in skins for about 16-18 days and the aging is done in new French barriques (Tronçais and Allier) for about 18 months. Rich garnet in color, the Turriga offers notes of crushed blueberries, black cherries, bittersweet chocolate, tobacco, roasted coffee and Mediterranean herbs. On the palate, this hearty red is concentrated, yet refined and elegant, framed by ripe, firm tannins and is full-bodied with a velvety mouth-feel.
Food pairing suggestions: Roasted duck, goose, or beef.

Korem: Korem Korem means “young girl” in the old language, and this wine is produced by the daughter of the family. It is a great wine, aged in barrique for 10-12 months followed by 6 months more in bottle. Intense ruby red in color with a powerful, lingering and well ­balanced nose. On the palate, this wine is velvety, full, harmonious, warm and well rounded. Tastes of minerals, grilled herbs, dark jammy fruit and French oak in a rich, full-bodied frame. The finish is very long with flavors of black cherry, blackberry, plum and blackcurrant.
Food pairing suggestions: First courses with meat-based sauces, spit-roasted suckling pig, grilled red meat, roast lamb, myrtle-flavoured hen, Sardinian sausage, mature Sardinian pecorino cheese.

Perdera: Perdera A excellent value, Perdera is made from 90% Monica, 5% Carignano and 5% Bovale Sardo grapes grown in the Argiolas’ Perdera vineyard. Malolactic fermentation in cement glass-lined tanks and development in small oak casks for 8-10 months. The nose exudes deep, ripe black and red berry fruits — blackberry, black raspberry, blueberry — as well as notes of earth and menthol. On the palate, it is earthy upfront, with black fruits following, and mellows into ripe blackberry and blackcurrant flavors. It gets fuller and more complex as it sits in the glass. Medium to high acidity and equally medium ripe tannins make it well structured and well balanced.
Food pairing suggestions: Grilled lamb, pasta with meaty sauces, mushrooms, cheese.

Vacation in Sardegna

Some time ago HF and I spent a very relaxing week in Sardegna, staying in the village of Capoterra. We stayed at the charming Hotel Santa Lucia. HotelThe grounds of the hotel are lovely, and the multi-lingual staff could not be more helpful.

 

There were only three restaurants within walking distance of the hotel (apparently there are seven total), and one of them was a mostly take-out pizzeria. Happily, all were very good, because we got to know them well.

 

Sa Cardiga e Su Schironi is well known, often appearing in lists of the best restaurants in Sardegna. Sa cardiga and su schironi is Sardu for “the grill and the skewer”. At one point during dinner, a waiter walked around the dining room with a skewer of grilled eels. (I’m sorry that we were too full by the time that happened even to split one, because they looked surprisingly delicious.) The meal began with a complimentary glass of bubbly for each of us. While we were reading the menu, the waiter appeared with a trolley full of antipasti: a plate with pane carasau, olives, cheese, sausage and bottarga. Having never had bottarga, I needed to try it. bottargaOnce again I demonstrated my preference for peasant food – I’m not fond of caviar, but bottarga I loved. It was served simply, to be spread on the bread and perhaps drizzled with olive oil. We skipped the pasta course, and for dinner I ordered langoustines and my friend ordered prawns. Both shellfish dishes were perfectly grilled. We also ordered what seems to be the typical side of vegetables. You get an enormous amount of whole vegetables, just slightly blanched, and served in a metal bowl. We both grabbed for the fennel every time, then went for the carrots, after which it got random. white wineFor dinner, we asked the waiter to bring us a local white wine, dry and mineral-y, and he did. For dessert we had a bottle of sweet Monica di Cagliari.

 

Despite the previous restaurant’s obvious charms, we actually enjoyed La Bottega del Mare (Warning: website has annoying music) more, eating dinner here three times. When you enter the restaurant, as is common there, you see a display of that day’s fresh fish and seafood. La Bottega del Mare When you let the restaurant order for you, that’s what you’re getting. The first time we ate there, we did just that. Quantities were enormous. First we had a number of antipasti. Then came the seafood and squid ink risotto. Next was a main course which was a mixed grill of three different types of shellfish, squid, and two kinds of fish – along with the jumbo bowl of vegetables. La Bottega del Mare house white To drink we had their excellent house white wine. For dessert, we were served sebadas, a traditional pastry filled with fresh pecorino cheese, deep fried and served with honey on top. SebadaAfterwards, we pretty much had to roll ourselves back to the hotel! For the insane amount of food we ate, the restaurant is also a good bargain. However, the other two times we ate there, we ate considerably less food. One time we ordered just some grilled seafood, which came with the by now ubiquitous bowl of vegetables, and drank the same house white. (Two bottles of it that night.) The third time we ate there, we tried their pasta, which was also very good. That night we drank one of their house reds, the Monica. I liked that wine less than their house white; if I were there a fourth time and wanting red, I would have ordered something from the wine list.

 

Finally, twice we had dinner at Pizzeria Goblin, a largely locals hang-out with terrific pizza and a choice of over 40 toppings. Some days, a pizza and a beer is precisely what you want for dinner, after all!

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