Lisa Denning

Lisa Denning

Lisa Denning

Lisa’s love of food and wine has led her on the path to many culinary adventures. Leaving her position in advertising at The New York Times to attend the French Culinary Institute was the first step in this journey. After years in food styling, recipe development, catering and restaurant work, she landed in the world of wine. Studying at the Sommelier Society of America then led her to four years selling wine and spirits at the venerable Sherry-Lehmann. Most recently Lisa started writing about wine and food on her blog, The Wine Chef. Follow her instagram, @nycrestaurants to see all of her mouth-watering experiences.

  1. Chianti's Pietro Beconcini Winery, Where Tempranillo and Sangiovese Grow Side by Side

    Chianti's Pietro Beconcini Winery, Where Tempranillo and Sangiovese Grow Side by Side

    As Leonardo Beconcini tells it, the story of his winery begins in the early 1950s in the Colline Pisane appellation of Chianti. That’s when his grandfather Giuseppe, a sharecropper at the Marchesi Ridolfi estate, purchased the land he had been renting to start his own company of growing and selling agricultural products—everything from fruits and cereals to livestock. It wasn’t until Leonardo’s father, Pietro, took over the business that the focus turned solely to the making of simple Chianti red wine, typical of that time period, sold in straw-covered bottles called fiascos.

    Like many of the next generation who take the reins from their elders, Leonardo wanted to improve the quality of what his father had given him. It was the 1990s and wine consumers were becoming more discerning about what they were drinking. He needed to have a better understanding of his vineyards if he wanted to improve the wines, so he began extensive research studies of the local environment. This undertaking led him to two local Sangiovese clones that he believed would make more exciting wines and which are now planted in his vineyards.

    Beconcini's research also led to a fascinating discovery of what was then an unknown variety growing amongst the Sangiovese vines, and which he simply labeled 'X.' He was so impressed by the quality of the wine that these mysterious vines produced that he continued to cultivate them. It took more than eleven years and DNA analysis to identify the grapes as Tempranillo.

    Most likely the variety had arrived in Chianti centuries ago, brought by religious pilgrims traveling along the ancient Via Francigena which runs through his wine estate. Today the winery produces the only commercially-produced Tuscan Tempranillo wines, two red and one rosé. The winery's portfolio also includes red and white wines from classic Italian varieties of Sangiovese, Malvasia and Trebbiano.

    I caught up with Eva Beconcini, co-owner of the winery with her husband, to learn more about this innovative winery and what it’s like to be a small, organic wine producer making artisanal wine in a region with many big industrial producers.

    Lisa Denning: Can you tell me a little bit about your winery?
    Eva Beconcini: We are between Pisa and Florence, in San Miniato. It’s a wonderful city; a fantastic place and the town of the white truffle in Tuscany. We are an appellation of Chianti Colline Pisane but we only write Chianti on the label and we are in the new DOC Terra di Pisa. For the entire life of my father-in-law he was producing Chianti in fiasco, the straw bottle, so that is our roots, our tradition that we respect and we love and is a part of our blood. This is the winery of my husband, and we work together, but Leonardo is really the man behind everything because he knows the vineyards and all the vines and everything in the cellar as the winemaker. For three years we have also been working with an enologist who has entered the winery with respect for the work that my husband has been doing for years. He helps us to not have such heavy weight on our shoulders because we produce many wines and we have a lot of things to do and so it’s a good marriage.

    We have been certified organic for 6 years and in the vineyards we do everything to maintain the fertility of the soil, like with manure, with planting cover crops, but in the cellar we really do nothing. During the past two years we have done some restyling of the cellar but we don’t really use high-technology; we do everything with our hands. We are creating at this moment a new cellar so we have bought a lot of vineyards, as well as land without vineyards where we have planted vineyards, in order to define our project for our winery. And we are very excited to start this project.

    We use only our grapes from our own vineyards and we use only the yeast from the skins. We have started to do some white wines, but red winemaking is at our core. All the studies we do in our vineyards are used to make more types of wines. For example, we have found that Malvasia Nera, an ancient grape variety, can make wonderful wines and so we said, let’s do something interesting with it.

    Can you tell me a little more about your location in Chianti; the terroir and how it influences your wines?
    Our land used to be on the bottom of the sea 20 million years ago, so the soil is full of fossil shells; it’s white and gray. You walk on shells in the vineyards. We have a lot of white clay too and the shells are crushed and mixed into the clay. We have a lot of water under the soil. Our vines are not in stress, never, even in the summer when it is very warm because the roots are really deep. We really work the soil a lot during the autumn and winter as the clay is very compact and you have to crush it for the roots to go down and down.

    As for the climate, we are between three rivers, the River Arno, the main river of Tuscany, the River Elsa, and the River Egola. It’s very important to speak about the rivers because the climate is mild—we are under the Apennines and all the cold winds are stopped by these two mountain chain...

  2. Sonoma County's Three Top Appellations For Pinot Noir

    Sonoma County's Three Top Appellations For Pinot Noir

    Pinot Noir is known as the heartbreak grape. A thin-skinned variety that easily succumbs to disease, it requires just the right climatic conditions to thrive: a cool climate with plenty of fruit-ripening sunshine. In places like California, where the weather can get extremely hot, the grape does well in cooler areas close to the Pacific Ocean. One place the grape has been able to shine is Sonoma County, a vast area whose topography includes more than 55 miles of breathtaking Pacific coastline.

  3. Talking About the Birds and the Bees: Biodiversity in Côtes du Rhône Vineyards

    Talking About the Birds and the Bees: Biodiversity in Côtes du Rhône Vineyards

    Biodiversity, a term that refers to the full variety of life on earth, is a crucial component of sustainable viticulture. It includes all types of animal and plant life (fauna and flora), as well as fungi and microorganisms, and helps create a healthy and balanced ecosystem, where the smallest living organisms play a very important role in the life of the vine. Winegrowers across the globe are realizing that, with the looming climate crisis, there needs to be more biodiversity in the vineyards. 

  4. Domaine de BRAU and the New Look of Languedoc Wine

    Domaine de BRAU and the New Look of Languedoc Wine

    It's easy to see why the sun-drenched region of Languedoc in southern France holds such an enduring appeal to so many people. The charming villages, rolling green hills, sandy seaside and snow-capped mountains will tug at your heartstrings, making you wish...

  5. From South Africa to Oregon: Hamilton Russell Vineyards Brings 40 Years of Wine Producing Know-How

    From South Africa to Oregon: Hamilton Russell Vineyards Brings 40 Years of Wine Producing Know-How

    Anthony Hamilton Russell takes his restrained, spice and structure-driven style of winemaking to Oregon.

  6. Pietro Buttitta of Prima Materia Brings Italian Soulfulness to Lake County

    Pietro Buttitta of Prima Materia Brings Italian Soulfulness to Lake County

    The Lake County appellation is situated next door to the Napa Valley yet has a very different climate. It is much warmer and lacks the coastal influence that its more famous neighbor basks in. Lake County has mostly been known in the past for its bulk wine production, yet a new generation of winegrowers are beginning to figure out what the area’s different microclimates are capable of. These quality-minded producers are making smaller volumes of elegant wines, like those of Prima Materia.

  7. Brad Greatrix and Cherie Spriggs of Nyetimber are Leading The Way For English Sparkling Wine

    Brad Greatrix and Cherie Spriggs of Nyetimber are Leading The Way For English Sparkling Wine

    Nyetimber winery, situated in the rural heart of southern England, is considered one of the country’s top producers of traditional method sparkling wine; often lauded by wine critics like Jancis Robinson who said, in a 2016 article on her website that Nyetimber can now “take on Krug.” Thirty five years ago it wouldn't have been possible to make wine of this caliber in England—the weather was simply too cold. But today, due to the effects of climate change and rising temperatures, England has become a part of the world's wine conversation, particularly when it comes to sparkling wine.

  8. Chile's Matetic Vineyards: Making Coastal Wines That Are Turning Heads

    Chile's Matetic Vineyards: Making Coastal Wines That Are Turning Heads

    Matetic Vineyards is located in Chile's El Rosario Valley, a sub-valley of the larger San Antonio Valley, just a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean. The Matetic family, originally from Croatia, arrived in Chile 100 years ago and found success as sheep and dairy farmers. It wasn’t until the early 1990s that they expanded into the wine business with the purchase of the estate. The family saw the potential of making great wines in an area of predominantly granitic soils despite the frequently challenging maritime weather conditions.

    “Chile’s cool Pacific coast is really extreme,” says Michael Schachner, Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Contributing Editor for South America. “It’s windy, dry, foggy, rugged and yet somehow represents a modern western frontier for Chilean winemakers and wineries who want to push limits and produce something particular and different than traditional Cabernets and such.”

    Matetic Vineyards, certified organic since 2004 and Demeter-certified biodynamic since 2012, is considered a pioneer of Chile's cool-climate Syrah but also produces solid examples of other varieties including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. We spoke with Julio Bastias...

  9. VIA's Growing Number of Ambassadors Are Spreading the Gospel of Italian Wine

    VIA's Growing Number of Ambassadors Are Spreading the Gospel of Italian Wine

    VIA's Growing Number of Ambassadors Are Spreading the Gospel of Italian Wine
    "VIA operates under the auspices of Vinitaly International, the promotional arm of Vinitaly, an annual wine fair owned and run for 55 years by Veronafiere, an Italian exposition company." By Lisa Denning
     
  10. How Jean-Luc Colombo's Passion for Vin de Garde Transformed the Cornas Appellation

    How Jean-Luc Colombo's Passion for Vin de Garde Transformed the Cornas Appellation

    Cornas is a small wine appellation in France’s Northern Rhône Valley. Located at the southern end of the region, its steep granitic hillsides are planted with only about 110 hectares of vines, all of which is Syrah. Until recently, Cornas wines were considered rather harsh and rustic; not worthy of the world's attention and frequently passed over in favor of wines from its storied neighbors,...

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