Naples – a great city worth a visit

Naples is an amazing city. Not to be missed.

We travelled to Naples in Summer so it was hot. But we always felt safe and thoroughly enjoyed the diversity the city has to offer

With almost 4 million inhabitants it is one of the largest cities in Europe and indeed one of the oldest continual inhabited cities dating back to 200BC

It has a flourishing port with many international cruise liners docking in the port.

 In the 19th century it formed an alliance with Sicily prior to becoming part of the unification of Italy

 The people are outgoing and the traffic chaotic

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 Waiters at Mare Chiaro waiting for the first guests of the evening. Mare Chiaro is an upmarket  seaside area just outside the city of Naples. Most restaurants overlook the sea.

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The view from a restaurant in Mare Chiaro

Palazzo Petrucci restaurant, on Piazza San Domenico Maggiore n. 4 is a must.

Regarded as one of the best in Naples the food and service is outstanding….and it will not break the budget

Seaside with restaurants

There are many fine hotels in Naples. This is the one we stayed in. Palazzo Alabardieri not far from the ocean. Great value and well located.


November/December wine offers

November/December Offers

Package 1 Bubbles for the festive season

Franciacorta is a small wine-producing area in Lombardy,northern Italy. It is famous for its high-quality sparkling wines, which are made in the Methode Champenoise tradition (secondary fermentation in the bottle). Franciacorta is regarded as Italy’s finest sparkling wine.

As a high-quality sparkling wine Franciacorta is clearly Italy’s answer to Champagne. We believe it is just as good if not better

•3 Bottles of Mirabella Franciacorta Brut (One of the great producers of Franciacorta.
•3 bottles of Mirabella Franciacorta Saten (bland de blanc)
Normal retail $282. This offer $249

Package 2 Summer Whites
What a great way to taste a selection of great Italian whites. Six of the best.

•1 Carbone Fiano 2012 from Basilicata
•1 Capolino Fiano 2013 from Campania
•1 Civitas Pecorino 2012 from Abruzzo
•1 Villa Patrizia Sciamareti 2013 from Tuscany
•1 Portinari Ronchetto Soave 2013 from Veneto
•1 Fugnano e Bombereto Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2013

Normal retail $180. This offer $150

Package 3 Rose’- perfect for a summer aperitivo

•2 Civettaio Chiu Rosato 2013 from Tuscany
•2 Villa Patrizia Helios Rosato 2013
•2 Sassotondo Rosato 2013
Normal retail $174. This offer $150

This offer is valid through to end of 2014.
Also for our full portfolio go to:

and quote the line number. We will arrange an invoice to be sent to you prior to delivery.
•Line No. CC93. Villa Cigliano Chianti Classico 1993. $95 per btl (5 bottles only)
•Line No. CHCR01. Villa Cigliano Chianti Classico Riserva 2001. $87 per btl (4 bottles only)
•Line No. LFBDM00. La Fornace Brunello 2000. $89 per btl. (4 bottles only)
•Line No. LFBDM01 La Fornace Brunello 2001 $87 per btl. (4 bottles only)

Odd Bins from the IWI portfolio

From time to time we have odd bins representing lines that are about to finish. We are pleased to offer these at great value

Let the harvest begin – Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Harvest time has arrived in Montalcino. Over the next two weeks all the sangiovese will be de-stemmed, softly crushed and start its journey to eventually becoming wonderful Brunello di Montalcino

Here are some pictures from Donatella’s vendemmia.
Vendemmia 2014 Sangiovese Fatoria del Colle Chianti

Gently does it

21 settembre 2014 Casato Prime Donne Monatclino

The grapes are quickly transferred to the press after picking

Vendemmia 2014 le donne sul trattore al Casato Prime Donne



Vendemmia 2014 Montalcino Casato Prime Donne Donatella Cinelli Colombini

La donna herself, Donatella Cinelli Colombini

Schiava – The slave of the north

These are excerpts from an article by Grapefriend.

“Schiava! My new friend from Alto Adige. This used to be most grown grape in the region, basically used to make table wine in bulk. Schiava actually means “slave” in Italian – a real workhorse grape for them back in the day. Now people have dialed back the yields and are pumping out some really nice wines. It’s whole purpose is to be a very light, easy drinking red that you can even serve with a little chill. There’s always a note of tarragon/herbal goodness too which makes it phenomenal with charcuterie, especially the regional fave speck”.


“Schiava is often blended with a small dose of Lagrein – a super heavy red that gives a dose of color and tannin.

The influences of Terroir on vintage outcomes – Montalcino

This article was recently published by Doctor Wine. I think it is very relevant. When a vintage is rated it is rated on the basis of the climatic effects on a total area. However in areas such as the hill top town of Montalcino the terroir has great influence on the outcomes. That is why in great vintages you may find wines that are not great and in poor vintages you may find wines that are very good

Some thoughts on Brunello 2009
by Riccardo Viscardi 19-09-2014

Completing Doctor Wine’s ‘Essential Guide’ took a lot of effort but it was also very gratifying. I can now take advantage of some of the tasting we did for the guide to look at the area I love the most: Montalcino.

The sights and sounds of Italy Part 1

Last year, writing about 2008, I criticized the various doomsayers, especially foreign ones, who were too negative and fretful in their evaluations of vintage 2008. Some of the Brunello Riserva 2008 that have come out have confirmed that it was an interesting year, especially for a few ‘enclaves’ in the area. Vintage 2009 is another story because it was a truly difficult year and it is important to take certain factors into consideration. I totally agree with the opinion of Andrea Gabbrielli, who knows Montalcino well, that ‘’you cannot judge a territory by the weather’’, this also because when things get tough the best producers, the best vineyards and, above all, how they were managed made a big difference in the final product. This does not mean the weather is not important, on the contrary. Weather makes the difference between a great year and a minor one, the important thing is not to generalize. Another consideration is that Montalcino is a very complex area with a wide variety of soils, microclimates and water resources in the various zones and subzones (if which there at least eight) and this creates substantial differences which in poor years are amplified. In Montalcino, 2009 was complex due to two particular and unfavorable situations that came together. At the end of May there was too much rain which delayed the growth of the vines. Then a heatwave struck in July, August and September with average temperatures 2°C above the norm for the past decade. During this time the difference in day and nighttime temperatures were below normal. Making matters worse was that there was no rain during the hot months which stunted growth and caused many grapes to dry out. Furthermore, the best soils are those that drain well and so they did not retain the early rainfall. Obviously, the hottest and dries area suffered the most, especially in those vineyards where some producers continued to follow a local tradition and prune their leaves leaving the grape bunches exposed to the sun and scalding heat. The best bet was to leave the bunches as covered as possible and to work the soil in such a way as to retain any humidity. Some zones have a deep clay substrata that holds the moisture better and those vines with deeper roots, the older ones, probably suffered less if they benefitted from having sufficient covering by the leaves. (It is illegal to irrigate in Montalcino, an interesting question but not one for this article). Due to the delays these conditions caused, the harvest period came late yet some producers decided to harvest early due to the poor condition of their grapes and the results were dismal. Many others waited too long and got caught by the rains of late September, which were not much compared to the heavy rain that came in October and caused even more problems, although not for everyone. Nevertheless, there were produces who made the right choices and came out with wines that were a tribute to their intelligence, agricultural skill and economic sacrifice (with little Brunello made). Another determining factor was the possibility for some to make a careful selection of grapes, discarding the ones that had dried out due to the heat and those that had mold due to too much rain during harvest. Sorting tables were a big help in doing as were the automatic sorting machines.

Given that it was such a complex year, it was strange that nine million bottles of Brunello 2009 DOCG were produced, more than in good years like 2006 or 2007 and from the same number of vines. Is this Italian fluke? How was it possible?
I had expected a significant drop in production, also because those who made some excellent Brunello 2009 had a significant drop in yield. And then there were those like Pieve di S. Restituta, who did not even produce a Brunello because they did not think it could be good enough.
A friend finally explained it to me. In simple terms it was this: Brunello is a wine that demands the best price through the big distributors and so bottlers and others pay very well for Brunello even in poorer years, when it is easier to buy the wine to then re-sell it under another name with a DOCG label. Thus in difficult years a lot of wine, which nevertheless respects DOCG regulations, reaches the market through this channel and allows the winemakers to balance their budgets. I, personally, believe that this harms Brunello’s image also for consumers who may not buy it often but are large in number, especially over the long term. But that’s the way the world turns: one wants everything and right away without thinking of the consequences.
In the end, what we have are very few Brunello 2009 that are truly exceptional, while the number of good ones is on the rise despite the difficulties faced, an indication that a growing number of producers have clear ideas on how to deal with adversities both in the vineyard and in the winery. Unfortunately, there was also a lot of mediocre wine. It is amazing how three of the best Brunello 2009 came from the same area, a cru I consider to be the best in Montalcino: eastern Cerbaie. Here, three producers, two of whom are very famous and the other a rising star, gave us not only some excellent wines but also wines from that a cru that adequately demonstrated the difference the altitude of a vineyard can make. As for their names, you will have to wait for the guide.

Piedmonte – Barolo country – Italy

Piedmonte is in Italy’s far north west and believes it is the wine and food capital of Italy.  More English was spoken than in other parts of Italy and far more northern European languages could be heard, particularly German as it is so close to Switzerland and Germany.  The architecture and cities we visited were also markedly different to Toscana and other parts of Italy.

Piedmonte is the second largest of Italy’s 20 administrative areas (after Sicily). It borders France and Switzerland with over 40% of the land covered by mountains.

It is a fertile agricultural area producing a substantial amount of Italy’s grains. In addition it is an acknowledged wine producer – primarily it is well known for its Barolo vino rosso.

And home to some wonderful white tartufo (truffles) particularly around Alba.

This is the hilltop town of La Morra which is centrally placed in the wine growing district.

Piedmonte has two wines which it calls the king and queen of Piedmonte wines. These are both made totally from Nebbiolo grapes with the king being Barolo and the queen Barbaresco. The only difference between the two is the area where the grapes are grown. Both are grown under strict DOCG guidelines. The Barolo must not be released for four years and the Barbaresco for three years. Most plot holdings are relatively small with the exception of a few major growers such as Gaja. Below are just a few pics of the various vineyards.

Some grape pickers.

It looks like another great vintage!

Well someone has to do the work!

French barriques.

More bariques…..what an amazing cantina (cellar).

Piedmonte is also known for its food including the famous white truffle from Alba.

Street markets are prominent with local and national produce from around Italy.

Street market in Asti.

Sundried tomatoes


fava beans

Restaurants in general were very good with excellent food outcomes.  Below are some examples of the food produced in Peidmonte restaurants.  Specialities of the area include Risottos, Taglionini pasta, truffles (black but especially white), raw sausages from Bra, veal, pork and more pork and of course all washed down with a spumante from Asti to start and then magnificent Piedmontese vinos followed by our favourite Saracco dessert vino.

mmmmnnn…tartufo bianco (white truffle) shaved over al dente taglionini pasta

asparagus risotto with raw egg stirred throughout

vitello(veal) stew

stuffed vegetables with ricotta mixture and a tomato coulis

local cheeses including ewes, cows and goats

Piedmonte is well worth a visit. Towns are not as “antica” as in other areas such as Toscana but they do have an appeal. Here are just a few snaps of some of the towns…

Alba Cathedral

A typical Alba street

Part of main Square in Alba


La Morra Cathedral

Bra Townhall

Ostica Antica – Ancient Roman port city

One of the hidden treasures of ancient Rome…Ostica Antica

Ostia was the port city of Imperial Rome, situated about 25 km from Rome Central.

At its peak it housed about 50,000 citizens

The city was very important to Rome receiving all the produce coming from other parts of the world or indeed Italy. It became the most important seaport in the Meditteranean. The area was occupied from the fourth century BC but really came into its own around one century BC when the walled elements of the city were constructed

 It was well planned with a parallel and vertical road grid

The city was quite wealthy and stylish and was almost fully self contained. The word Ostia comes from the latin word Ostium which means river mouth. At the time it was at the mouth of the river but today with floods and river changes it sits some 3 km from the sea

Note the Neptune mosaics that are in amazing condition considering they were laid some 2000 years ago

This particular bath house had a cold pool, two imtermediate temperature pools and one hot pool and they were usually utilised in this order

Also in the bath houses were change rooms, massage rooms and entertainment areas. Most homes at that time had limited facilities so bath houses were particularly popular

Signage for the shops was by way of a mosaic on the footpath outside. This one was clearly a seafood providore

What is surprising with this fish shop is that the table, fish tank and oven are in original condition

Even bars and restaurants were prevalent. This one was well preserved with the bar and servery in tact. The bar was built some 2000 years ago and its condition today is remarkable. Even the barmaid is in good condition

The city was impeccably presented with open courtyards, fountains and piazzas

Here are examples of some

We love this photo of a young girl drawing amongst the antiquity of Ostia

Of course every city must have somewhere to place the deceased

Pre christian days people were cremated and their remains placed in wall urns. Here is a street named in accordance with its inhabitants and the place where the urns went

Well, enough of the city. It is well worth a visit. By train just one Euro and we were surprised by the lack of people there. It was so pleasant just meandering around the ruins.