lisa denning

  1. 'Wine Witch on Fire': A Conversation with Author Natalie MacLean

    'Wine Witch on Fire': A Conversation with Author Natalie MacLean

    In her new book, Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking Too Much, wine writer and educator Natalie MacLean brings a unique blend of personal reflection, wine expertise, and historical intrigue to her story. In this candid memoir, MacLean delves into sensitive topics, from her struggles with drinking to facing professional attacks and online bullying. Her story weaves in centuries-old tales of witches, adding an unconventional layer to her narrative.


  2. Fausto Albanesi of Torre dei Beati Winery on Loyalty to the Land

    Fausto Albanesi of Torre dei Beati Winery on Loyalty to the Land

    Torre dei Beati is a winery in Loreto Aprutino, a charming hilltop town in central Italy's Abruzzo region. In 1999, Fausto Albanesi and his wife Adriana inherited a small parcel of family vineyards, sparking a shared passion that changed their lives. At the time, winemaking offered a creative escape from their day jobs, with Fausto employed as an engineer and Adriana as an accountant.

    Their journey towards full-time wine production spanned 17 years, and today, Torre dei Beati produces some of Abruzzo's most noteworthy, terroir-reflective wines. The winery's 52 acres of native, organically-farmed grapes are planted between 800 and 1,000 feet above sea level and about 15 miles from the Adriatic...

  3. Chianti Classico UGA Classifications Approved

    Chianti Classico UGA Classifications Approved

    Chianti Classico, one of Italy's most prestigious wine regions, announced on July 5th, 2023, that the Italian Ministry of Agriculture has officially approved its Additional Geographical Units (UGA) classification system.

    The Chianti Classico appellation now encompasses 11 distinct areas, whose names—San Casciano, Greve, Montefioralle, Lamole, Panzano, Radda, Gaiole, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Vagliagli, Castellina, and San Donato in Poggio—can be included on the bottles' front labels, starting with the 2020 vintage.

    In June of 2021, the proposal to subdivide Chianti Classico's territory received unprecedented approval from its wine producers, with an overwhelming 97% casting their votes in its favor. Following a two-year wait for government approval, the region's labels can now aptly convey the remarkable diversity of its land.

    Aiding Consumers

    The UGA classification is based on various factors, including physical, environmental, and human. It mirrors practices seen in other renowned wine regions like Burgundy, with its AOCs (Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée), and Barolo with its MGAs (Menzione Geografica Aggiuntive). Through these systems, consumers can connect the dots between a wine's intricate nuances—aromas, colors, and flavors—and its delineated territory.

    Specific to Chianti Classico, wine buyers can now make informed purchasing decisions by understanding, for instance, that wines from Panzano will exhibit a darker hue and fuller body than those from Lamole. 


  4. Trentodoc: One of Italy's Most Prized Sparkling Wines

    Trentodoc: One of Italy's Most Prized Sparkling Wines

    Trentodoc is a sparkling wine produced in northeastern Italy's mountainous Trentino region. Formed in 1993, the appellation has the distinction of being Italy's first classic method sparkling wine. However, its origin can be traced back to the early 20th century to Giulio Ferrari, whose love for Champagne inspired him to try his hand at making bubbly wine in downtown Trento. Little by little, Ferrari built his empire, inspiring local wine producers to move in the same direction, and today, he is the most well-known of the appellation’s 67 wine producers.

    Trentodoc vineyards are cultivated at high elevations in the foothills of the Dolomite Alps, between 650 and 2,625 feet above sea level. The area's soil, formed around 250 million years ago, is made of decomposed rock with limestone, contributing to the grapes' strong aromatic and mineral profiles. Furthermore, the region's large diurnal shift, the difference between day and night temperatures, ensures the wines have great acidity and pure fruit aromatics.

    Trentodoc wines follow strict production guidelines, including aging requirements that mirror Champagne's. However, most producers exceed the 15 month-minimum, leaving the wines to age for ten years or longer before releasing them to the market. Extended lees aging brings complexity and elegance to the wines and is a signature of the region's quality-focused winemaking.

    Grape Collective caught up with Sabrina Schench, Director of Trentodoc’s wine consortium, to talk about the appellation's evolution. 

    Lisa Denning: Can you tell me your background and how you became the Trentodoc consortium’s director?

    Sabrina Schench: I got my law degree at university, and I have a Master’s degree in Communication as well. I went to Madrid, worked there for two years, then returned to Italy and began working with the Chamber of Commerce for wine promotion and then with the Trentino tourism board. In 2012 the Trentodoc association hired me as director.

    Can you tell me a brief history of Trentodoc and how it became an appellation for sparkling wine?

    The story started in the 1800s when a few wine producers began trying to make a traditional method sparkling wine in Trentino. Then in 1902, Giulio Ferrari, the most famous oenologist and agronomist of Trentino, learned from his travels that there was a similarity in the climate and the terroir between Trentino and France. He started the production of classic method sparkling wine in the city of Trento, and then other producers followed him. In 1984, the association I represent, Trentodoc Institute, was founded. The recognition of the denomination of the region came in 1993 (It was one of the first DOC for a sparkling classic method worldwide), and then in 2007, the collective trademark ‘Trentodoc’ was born. Now there are 67 producers.

    How would you say Trentodoc's sparkling wine distinguishes itself from other Italian sparkling wine?

    Trentodoc’s identity comes from the mountain environment and from its very long tradition. The secret of Trentodoc itself is the elegance and freshness: the acidity coming directly from the mountains and the Dolomites. Trentodoc comes from Trentino, a region in northern Italy where 70% of the territory is higher than 1000 meters, 20% over 2.000 meters, and 93 mountains over 3000 meters.

    How would you say the appellation has evolved since 2007?

    I think the secret was working very closely with the producers, meaning we have a very close relationship with them. They started to believe strongly in the Trentodoc trademark. We work very hard on the promotion, and at the same time, the growing market for sparkling wine, in general, has gone up. I think a lot of circumstances have contributed to Trentodoc’s success.

    What is the best way to get the word out about Trentodoc wine in the US? I don’t think the average U.S. consumer knows about the wine.

    You're right. In fact, Trentodoc is very popular in Italy, but in the US, we have a lot of work to do. I think that you need to push a lot on communication. We were the region of the year for Wine Enthusiast in 2020. We are partners of both the Master of Wine Association and the Italian Sommelier Association, two ...

  5. Book Review: Italian Wine Unplugged 2.0 Offers a Deep Dive Into Italian Wine

    Book Review: Italian Wine Unplugged 2.0 Offers a Deep Dive Into Italian Wine

    As wine lives, breathes, and evolves, so must wine study books change over time. The best reference books about wine reflect this natural evolution with updated editions that add to an original wealth of material. 

    Italian Wine Unplugged 2.0 is a second-edition book that builds upon the success of Italian Wine Unplugged Grape by Grape, a study guide for students and lovers of Italian wine that debuted in 2017. Compiled by a team of wine experts and educators, the first edition quickly became a benchmark and has been used as the core textbook for the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA), a leader in Italian wine education. 

    As its subtitle, Grape by Grape, suggests, the first edition focuses on Italian grapes, specifically 430+ indigenous varieties. Within its pages, you will find all the well-known varieties like Sangiovese and Nebbiolo as well as the obscure, hard-to-pronounce grapes such as Susumaniello...

  6. The Giardini Family of Villa Venti, Guardians of Romagna's Land

    The Giardini Family of Villa Venti, Guardians of Romagna's Land

    Villa Venti was founded in 2002 by Mauro and Davide Giardini, and its vineyards are planted solely with native Romagna varieties. The winery is certified organic and follows biodynamic methods.

  7. Paolo Demarie of Piedmont's Demarie Winery on the Evolution of Piedmont

    Paolo Demarie of Piedmont's Demarie Winery on the Evolution of Piedmont

    Demarie is a small, family-owned winery in Vezza d'Alba in the heart of Piedmont's Roero appellation. The winery...

  8. Another Way is Possible: Joško Gravner and the Never-Ending Quest for Improvement

    Another Way is Possible: Joško Gravner and the Never-Ending Quest for Improvement

    Joško Gravner is a revered winemaker in the Collio hills of the Friuli region of northeastern Italy, on the border of Slovenia. Considered a pioneer of the modern-day orange wine movement, he follows an ancient, low-intervention winemaking style, producing uniquely characterful wine.

  9. ​​Stu Devine of Devine Wine Talks New Zealand Terroir

    ​​Stu Devine of Devine Wine Talks New Zealand Terroir

    Stu Devine is the proprietor of Devine Wine, a New Zealand marketing company. With a surname that means "of the vine" it's fitting that his specialty is in the wine sector, working in collaboration with two highly regarded New Zealand wineries. Devine’s career began in a vegetable and fruit nursery, tending to plants and eventually selling horticultural products.

    “I really enjoyed the grape growers I worked with when I sold products for grapevines,” says Devine. “They were the salt of the earth and some of the most decent, easy-going people I had ever met, so I decided to follow in their footsteps and bought a vineyard of my own in Hawkes Bay.” 

    His experience as a grape grower then led to a job in viticulture at a large winery. But, as much as Devine loved tending the vines, his outgoing personality and, as he puts it, “big mouth” took him in another direction, namely wine sales. In 2006, Devine formed his company, a partnership with Rod McDonald of Te Awanga Estate in Hawke’s Bay and Paddy Borthwick of Borthwick Vineyard in Wairarapa where Devine oversees all U.S. sales activity.

    I just tasted their wine,” says Devine when asked his reason for choosing to work with McDonald and Borthwick, “and that’s how simple it really was. The wine showed their honesty, their good looks, and their charm. Just one glass and you will understand why I was captivated. I have created a company where I represent the wine that I have an absolute passion for.”

    Devine stopped by Grape Collective to chat about what's happening in New Zealand's wine world today.

    Lisa Denning: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into wine?

    Stu Devine: My background goes quite a ways back. I've always been into horticulture. I was a nurseryman, I grew plants and then got a job selling products to apple growers and vineyards. I come from a small region in New Zealand called Hawke's Bay, and I bought a vineyard in '93 with both...

  10. Loire Valley Vintners Are Embracing Organic Wine

    Loire Valley Vintners Are Embracing Organic Wine

    As a child, Liv Vincendeau loved going with her mother to the first organic shops in the little German village of Wiesbaden where she grew up. The shops, she says, were very hippie-like and not trendy like they are today. Her mother, an organic gardener and cook, was a member of the local green party and she would frequently organize tree planting excursions throughout the local towns. Vincendeau's family also spent a lot of time in the countryside, hiking in the forest and visiting world heritage sites. Unsurprisingly, when Vincendeau moved to France she brought her childhood values with her. In 2014, she founded a small Loire Valley winery, Domäne Vincendeau, and never considered anything but organic farming to manage the property. 

    “I always wanted to build something beautiful and nice to live and work in,” says Vincendeau. “There’s no way I would use chemical products that could hurt me or anyone else working in the vineyards. People in the office at conventional wineries often don’t consider the vineyard workers who are the ones exposed to dangerous products. When it’s yourself out there you think about it differently.” 

    The desire to avoid chemical exposure is not only affecting wine growers. Consumers, concerned with food and beverage safety, are demanding organic products, those made without the use of synthetic chemicals or genetically-modified components. The organic wine market, while still relatively small, is rapidly growing and according to Grand View Research, is expected to increase 10.2% by 2030.

    France is one of the leading countries of organic viticulture, with 17% of its vineyards farmed organically as of 2020 (Beverage Daily), and that number is rising. French wine growers are reacting not only to market demand, but to what they are seeing in conventional vineyards where chemically-treated soils lack a rich diversity of living creatures and vegetation. To the contrary, organic soils are teeming with microbiomes that are vital in maintaining a healthy ecosytem for grapevines to produce high quality grapes.

    Sylvain Grosbois, owner of Loire Valley winery Domaine Grosbois in Chinon, began to farm organically in 2007. “As we started to listen to what our vines  were telling us and to respect the soil and the life around them,” says Grosbois, “we noticed a huge difference in regards to the insect life and number and activity of birds. The soil is much more aerated and smells better, and the vine is more...

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