Elio Altare & his influence on Barolo history and style

Elio Altare is a living legend of the Piedmont region. He is the creator of one of the region’s most renowned estates. A pioneer, he is one of the winegrowers who dared to settle in the Piedmontese hills, despite the difficult location, he forged the reputation of Piedmontese wines.

Originally from the town of Dogliani, the Altare family bought a 5 hectares farm in La Morra back in 1948, has since made history in the region, and became famous for producing wines of finesse and elegance. The vineyard was extended later, in addition to the La Morra hilly vineyards, was purchased or leased the Arborina vineyard at the top of the hill as well as top locations such as Canubi and Cerretta Vigna Bricco. The estate now works with exclusive and dedicated 12 hectares of premium lands, which are cultivated by the family with respect, care, all without the use of chemicals and pesticides.

Elio Altare is a giant amongst the many great winemakers that pepper the hills of Piedmont; his pioneering efforts in changing production methods to gain a more expressive and approachable style of Barolo inspired a generation of producers to follow suit and, it must be said, the results have been a huge positive for the region and its wines in general.

In the summer of 1983, Elio Altare destroyed the old family barrels using a chainsaw. The first gesture to mark the beginning of a new era in Barolo. He was one of the Barolo Boys, a group of young winemakers, Voerzio, Boschis, Altare, and Manzone that started to innovate in the region and that was glamorized in the documentary of the same name by Paolo Casalis and Tiziano Gaia. While Piedmont had always been very traditional, Elio Altare was one of the first to question the wine’s identity and the winemaking techniques normally used. They started to introduce modern cellar techniques, shorter fermentation times and aging in French barriques and were therefore extremely successful. Their goal has always been to make Barolo as elegant and long-lasting as the famous Burgundy wines from which he brought the ideas.

Thanks to his intuition, the winery Elio Altare soon collects the first success in a few years and stood at the top of their field. From green harvesting to reduced yields, to aging his wines in French barriques in lieu of the classic Botti, every tradition was questioned in the spirit of innovation, with the ultimate goal to raise the quality of the region’s wines. With the adoption of many of these new winemaking techniques, Elio Altare quickly became known as the leader of the “modernist” movement. Alongside Angelo Gaja, and followed by many new wave winemakers, they dared to be different and by doing so, helped raise the standard of quality throughout the region. Constant innovation has remained the axiom at the Altare family estate which is now run with the same degree of enthusiasm and innovation by Elio’s daughter, Silvia. Whether it’s doing two completely different types of vinification for the same parcel as in the Barolo “Arborina” and Langhe “Arborina,” or de-stemming bunches by hand for an experimental micro-cuvée, the goal remains to keep pushing forward and raising the bar and to show that tradition and innovation are not mutually exclusive.

The wines of Elio Altare are reputed not only for the quality but also for the concentration and depth that are unmatched. The wines are some of the most successful examples of “modern classic” you will find, preserving and showcasing the vibrancy and provenance of the vineyards while at the same time delivering those characteristics within limpid and supple textures. They are quite rightly regarded as one of the superstars of the Langhe.


CALABRIA – the hidden sun-drenched paradise


Calabria, located in the South, at the toe of Italy, is one of the smallest wine-producing regions of the country, but it’s rich with unique style and local grape varietals to discover. This peninsula between the Ionian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea with also has the Apennines Mountains on its Northern Border. The region has enormous potential and a beautiful picturesque landscape.

The Greeks first began vine cultivation there and for many centuries, viticulture was an important cultural and economic aspect for the region. Calabria has a long and proud history of winemaking. Legend has it that the vineyards which covered the coastal hills of the region inspired the ancient Greeks to mint their coins with the title ‘Oenotria’, the land of wine. It’s also said that Calabrian athletes at the ancient Olympic games toasted their triumphs with Krimisa. This wine is thought to be identical to that found today, making it one of the oldest known wines in Europe. After phylloxera, the region has never quite recovered from the loss of its vineyards and struggled to compete with the international development of wine culture. Nonetheless, Wines from Calabria has managed to preserve their rustic and rural character as well as its Southern rich style.


There’s a handful of DOCs in Calabria, but most of them are put aside in favor of the more flexible IGTs. For now, there’s no DOCG yet in Calabria, but with recent activities and revitalization of the region by younger producers, we might as well expect great things from the region.

CIRÒ: Best known appellation in Calabria, CIRÒ is also known for its rich red wines predominantly from the local Gaglioppo grape variety. It’s considered one of the oldest named wines in the world

MELISSA : A neighbor to the better-known Cirò, MELISSA shares the same potential and similar attributes. Melissa Rosso must be based on a 75-95 percent component of Gaglioppo. The balance must be one or more of the dark-skinned Greco Nero and/or one or more of the white grapes Greco Bianco, Malvasia Bianca and Trebbiano Toscana.

LAMEZIA : in LAMEZIA, you’ll find mostly blends between Sicilian red varieties Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Capuccio, accompanied by local reds such as Gaglioppo, Greco Nero, Nocera and Calabrese.

SAVUTO : Named after the Savuto River, the local name for Gaglioppo here is Arvino and can make up to 45% of its red blends.

BIVOGNI: Introduced in June 1996, it’s the youngest of the region’s DOCs. This is an area defined by coastal hills. Bivongi wines remain relatively unknown in the wine world outside Italy. Most of Bivongi wines are red although white and rosé are also allowed.

GRECO DI BIANCO : Unique and interesting, while most of Calabrian wines are red, GRECO DI BIANCO produces exclusively a deep old gold-colored dessert wine, made using the passito method on Greco Bianco grapes.

SANT ANNA ISOLA CAPO RIZZUTO : Following the coastline, only red and rosés are allowed in this appellation. The red blends here are made up of 40 to 60% Gaglioppo and may be blended with six other varieties including two white (Nocera, Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio and Malvasia Nera, Greco Nero and Malvasia Bianca) similarily to Côte-Rotie Custom.

SCAVIGNA: Seldom used, Scavigna is a very small DOC, with strict restriction and many producers prefer using IGT status for flexibility.

TERRE DI COSENZA: Terre di Cosenza is a relatively new addition to the DOCs of Calabria, introduced in 2011. It concentrates on the local dark-skinned grape Magliocco (also known as Arvino and Mantonico Nero)

IGTs : Arghillà, Calabria, Costa Viola, Lipuda, Locride, Palizzi, Pellaro, Scilla, Val di Neto, Valdamato


There are hundreds of grape varieties native to Calabria that are preserved and prized. They are part of the unique heritage in Calabria and provide a great sense of place and authenticity to the wines of the region.

GAGLIOPPO: Gaglioppo is Sangiovese’s rad child and Sicily’s Nerello Mascalese ‘s cousin. It achieves world-class results in Cirò. It produces wines typified by a range of crushed berry flavors, often accented by cherry and spicy secondary notes.

CASTIGLIONE: The Castiglione grape is an exclusive variety of Calabria region, found notably in Terre di Cosenza. Castiglione grapes give a ruby red wine, more or less strong, of vinous aroma and slightly tannic structure.

GRECO NERO: Often used in blends, Greco Nero is part of a large family of grape varieties so-called “Greeks”, whose origin and dissemination, although uncertain, is common as they all seem to have derived from grapes imported from the Greek settlers. It can also be known as Grecu Niuru or e Maglioccone (in the area of Bivongi).

MAGLIOCCO: Magliocco is the king of Cosenza. The characteristics of Magliocco Canino are quite distinctive. The taste of this red wine bears an amazing taste of spices and pepper. Along with the intense spicy flavor, this red grape wine also has red – fruity flavor.


ADDORACA: This extremely rare variety is found in the province of Cosenza where it is used in the production of the dessert wine Moscato di Saracena.

GRECO BIANCO: Greco Bianco can make excellent wines from dry through to fully sweet.

PECORELLO: Pecorello is a minor grape of the Calabria region, present mainly in the province of Cosenza. It gives a pale yellow wine with an intense aroma and a delicate but refreshing palate.

MANTONICO: Mantonico is an impressive white grape variety that was historically used for passito, but has achieved compelling results as a dry wine.



Ippolito 1845 I Mori Calabria 2017

SAQ: 14460577

This wine is a blend of the classic and historical Gaglioppo varietal and the more international Cabernet Sauvignon.  Its aromas are definitely rich and thick of ripe fruit, prunes, and dried fruits with a smoky character. It shows signs of ripening under the strong southern Italian sunshine and offers smooth tannins and mouthfeel.



La pizzuta del Principe Molarella Val di Neto 2019

SAQ: 14462871

This 100% Pecorello really showcases this varietal potential as a highly refreshing, fragrant dry and mineral white wine.  Pecorello is still unknown to most, but is part of the Calabria viticulture heritage. Ripe yellow apples and floral aromas take up the most place, but there’s also hint of crushed rock and a saline finish.



Serracavallo Besidiae Calabria 2019

SAQ: 14515460

A blend of 40% Pecorello, 30% Chardonnay, and 30% Riesling. This pale straw-colored wine is soft overall, with delicate notes of pear and apple, plus a distinct note of lime. The palate shows a fresh approach with a chiseled textured and a citric touch


Serracavallo Sette Chiese Calabria 2019

SAQ: 14515494

This blend of Magliocco (60 %), and Cabernet Sauvignon (40 %) has an interesting smoky character doubled with vanilla, plum, blackberries, and green tomato leaf. It’s light in color with purple reflections, but rich in taste with a consistent, soft palate.

Serracavallo Quattro Lustri Terre di Consenza 2019

SAQ: 14515435

Terre di Cosenza is a relatively new addition to the DOCs of Calabria, introduced in 2011. It concentrates on the local dark-skinned grape Magliocco (also known as Arvino and Mantonico Nero) and so is the Quattro Lustri which is 100% Magliocco. On the nose, it opens with aromas of dense wild berries, macerated plum, vanilla, and scrubland. It’s very juicy and bright, with a slight perception of sweetness that gives it a smooth and delicious finish.



THE CHAMPAGNE ONLINE COURSE: An innovative and interactive education tool

Becoming a Champagne expert is now possible for you!

Do you get excited every time you hear the name Champagne? Chances are if you’re reading this, you may already have some knowledge and love for the uniqueness and beauty of the sparkling wine only from Champagne, France. What if I told you that you can further your learning and get the latest, most inclusive and complete course available right now? Enlightened wine lovers have an advantage as the complexity and true personality of Champagne wines and regions are enhanced by greater understanding.

The Champagne Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) was introduced by the Comité de Champagne, the official representative for all the 360 houses and 16,100 growers in the region, this year as an interactive and fun approach that is accessible to all. The aim is to offer a true experience and enable learners to achieve in-depth knowledge and become a Champagne expert all from the comfort of their home.

Guided by Master of Wine Jérémy Cukierman, learners will be able to build their knowledge by following a fun course comprising four modules, making for a total of more than 40 short videos. Topics range from a complete understanding of the vines cycle and different varietal specificity, to vinification processes and ageing, understanding of the role of vins clairs, terroir and recent sustainable approaches as well as the rich history of the region.

I’ve had the chance to complete the course myself and was extremely impressed by the depth and variety of information and knowledge presented. It’s an incredible educational tool  for any professional or wine lover, whether you’re a wine merchant, sommelier, student or any kind of enthusiast! It’s a great opportunity to improve your skills to put together a good selection in your wine cellar, to advise clients about food-wine pairings, to broaden your knowledge and have a comprehensive overview of the Champagne market as well as get all the fundamentals to taste and discover Champagne with a new, expertly instructed approach.

The four Champagne MOOC modules are:


Diversity & Tasting

Discover the sheer diversity of Champagne wines, and the secrets to serving and tasting them.



The Champagne-making process

Explore the vines and cellars and learn about the different stages of the Champagne wine-making process.



Champagne terroir

Gain an understanding of why the Champagne wine-growing region is the only one of its kind in the world, and learn about its characteristics.



History & Economy of Champagne

Gain a grasp of the mysteries of Champagne, from its origins to current trends.



Fun Fact: The Hillsides, Houses & Cellars of Champagne (Coteaux, Maisons et Caves de Champagne) are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015. The chalk cellars are so expansive that when a survey was commissioned to prepare for the UNESCO application, the task could not be completed due to the extensive distance required to map the limestone tunnels.

Let’s play a little game, shall we? Can you answer these questions? These are just a few examples of what you can learn in the Champagne MOOC.

Approximately how many bubbles can be formed in a single glass of Champagne?

What is the Réseau MATU and what are its objectives?

Which Champagne sub-region stands on a plateau area 300m above sea level?

What innovative breakthrough happened in 1837?

What nickname did the French poet Henri d’Andeli gave to Champagne in the 13th century?

What was the AOC concept introduced in 1935?

On which varietal is the Vallée de la Marne pruning method allowed?


Register today on www.champagne-mooc.com to learn the answers.


The Champagne Bureau in North America is holding a sweepstakes for Canadian residents from December 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

THE PRIZE: One lucky winner will receive…

A $200 gift card for you to purchase bottles of exquisite Champagne.

Free access to the premium version of the Champagne Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), the first-of-its-kind Champagne-only course created by the Comité Champagne.

To enter, you must:

Register and complete the “classic version” of the Champagne MOOC by March 31, 2020.

Send a screenshot of your completed MOOC classic version dashboard to [email protected] as proof.

Have worked at a bar, restaurant or retail store in the past year and provide the name of the company in your email.

Be a resident of Canada.

Sweepstakes dates:

Canadian residents are eligible to enter the sweepstakes from December 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.

Names will be raffled on or after April 5, 2021.

The Champagne Bureau will contact the winner by April 9, 2021.

The Champagne Bureau will send a gift card to the winner between April 12-16, 2021.

For more info, click here!


The Different Colors Of Wine And What They Indicate

The Different Colors Of Wine

Color is the first thing we see when we pick up a bottle of wine. Color may indicate where the varietal comes from and how it was made. Pigmentation, extraction, and color can affect anything from a wine’s appearance down to how it ages. Every variety of wine has a story that defines it and the color is but one indication of what a specific wine is truly about.

The Story Behind Wine’s Coloring

When it comes to the grapevine, the hue of the respective berry is an indicator of the vine’s ability to survive, its growth, and the evolution of its surroundings.

Usually, in red wine, the hue is a way to determine the age-ability of the product and how it might feel in terms of texture on the tongue. It’s also a way for producers to make decisions that impact the stability and longevity of the plant.

How Does Wine Use Its Color?

Plants use color in many fascinating ways. With grapevines, the younger and bright red leaves use their pigment to fight off herbivores. The red leaves act as a shield against the piercing rays of the sun. As they mature, the greener hue represents that they’ve grown less vulnerable.

The grape berries use their pigments to attract animals to eat them. This helps the plant seeds to be dispersed across a much larger territory than the vine itself would be capable of. When it comes to white grapes, they’re only seen in two distinct mutations.

Their lack of pigment makes it harder for them to be dispersed and puts them at a definite evolutionary disadvantage. In order to expand their reach, these grapes will require the help of humans.

Factors That Influence Grape Color

As a plant grows, a variety of pigments will come into play to help the coloration process. This includes carotenoids, chlorophyll, and betalains. The versatile anthocyanin is the pigment that dominates the process.

What is anthocyanin? It’s a phenolic compound that is, to an extent, structurally similar to tannins. There are 20 different types prevalent among vinifera grapes.

This pigment presents itself in different hues. This hue depends on the type of grape and the pH levels of the grape’s surrounding tissue. In essence, the lower the pH levels are, the more you’ll find the color to shift toward the redder end of the visible light spectrum. The higher the pH levels are, the bluer the hues will shift.

What Happens To The Color Of Grapes During Fermentation?

As the winemaking process speeds up, the pigment is extracted as soon as the crushing of the grape takes place. The pigment is usually soluble, but only at lower temperatures. Five to eight days into the maceration process, color extraction reaches its greatest point in concentration. This is referred to as the ‘ceiling’. There will almost always be a bit of a decline after this level of concentration has been reached.

The color’s concentration can be tweaked with the help of techniques that increase co-pigmentation. Co-factors like monomeric phenolic compounds (quercetin and gallic acid) will bind with anthocyanin during extraction, leaving them stagnant until needed for later polymerization.

What Else Does Anthocyanin Affect In A Grape

Greater reductive strength can only be achieved with the help of shorter and more abundant tannin and color polymers. Reductive strength and the capacity of antioxidants (or the ability to absorb oxygen without oxidizing) is what truly shapes the longevity of the wine.

Tannins will grow and polymerize until they’ve reached their full capacity. At this point, they’ll be capped on each end by a color molecule.

This phenomenon occurs when a higher ratio of color to tannin leads to much shorter polymers and perhaps, a greater reductive strength.

This ultimately means that there’s an ability to absorb oxygen over time without any oxidation taking place.

Simply put, the hues that we see in wines are preserved and retained by bonding with tannins, and vice versa. When it comes to the mouthfeel, a softer experience will mean that shorter anthocyanin-tannin polymers are prevalent.

On the other hand, higher astringency results from longer tanning chains that are shaped by a low ratio of anthocyanin to tannins. In other words, this is when polymerization occurs in the absence of oxygen.


Winemakers can use the science of color to tweak their wine to best suit their brand or taste goals. In some cases, color can even be utilized to help extend the lifespan of a specific wine.


How To Properly Chill Wine

chilling wine

Does keeping the wine bottles vertically in the fridge chill it faster than wrapping it in a wet towel? What’s the best way to chill bottles from your favorite red wine club? What about adding wine cubes to the wine?

Reaching the right temperature is vital for the best wine drinking experience. Read on to explore the importance of best temperatures and methods for chilling wine.

Finding The Right Temperature

When it comes to wines, chilling properly is crucial for revealing the tannins, body, and tasting notes of the wine without muting them. However, reaching the ideal drinking temperature varies widely between different types. For instance, biodynamic and organic wines from organic wine clubs and vegan wine clubs should be served more lightly chilled than their sparkling wine contemporaries.

1. The Right Temperature for Reds

From the tannins that seep out from the skin and seeds of the grapes to meticulous aging, red wines are processed differently from whites and other popular varieties. You need to figure out the body and dryness of the wine to properly cool it for serving.

Here’s the ideal temperature for serving red wines:

  • Light-bodied reds should be kept in the fridge for 1.5 hours at 550F.
  • Medium-bodied reds should be kept in the fridge for over one hour at 600F.
  • Full-bodied reds should be kept in the fridge for 45 minutes at 650F.

Too much warmth in red wine can make it feel soupy whereas freezing-cold red wines might taste duller and bland without any pronounced flavors. Moreover, red wines are best served after one hour of uncorking to allow them to breathe.

2. The Right Temperature For Whites

Although best served cold, white wines shouldn’t be icy-cold. The cold temperature accentuates the acidity and body of the wine to reveal subtler notes. If your white is too cold, it can often seem sharp, just like warm white wines taste acidic.

  • Light-bodied-whites are best served at 450F to 500F with up to two hours in the refrigerator.
  • Medium-bodied-whites gain the best notes at 500F to 550F with light chilling.
  • Full-bodied-whites express the best tastes at 500F to 600F.

Keep in mind that mature whites are best stored in the cellar than in the refrigerator.

3. The Right Temperature For Fortified Wines

Dessert wines and fortified wines require careful cooling because of the sweetness and sugar contained within. If you chill it too long, aroma and the flavor can become edgy whereas warm fortified wines may taste like syrup.

  • Vintage Port service is recommended at a temperature of 66˚0F.
  • NV/ Tawny Port is best consumed at 570F.
  • Dry fortified wines get the best notes at 500F.
  • Medium-bodied fortified wines can be chilled up to 530F.
  • Sweet fortified wines require standard cooling at 650F before serving.

Typically, fruity fortified wines are served chilled, unlike mature ones often served warm.

4. The Right Temperature For Rosés and Sparkling Wines

When it comes to Rosé wines, uncorking and letting the bottle sweat for a few minutes before serving reveals its flavors and aromas better than full-chilling. However, sparkling wines and champagnes need chilling to enhance the carbonation if you like the bubbles. Find out which is the right temperature for both.

Rosé wines: 

  • Dry Rosé is considered flavorsome at 460F to 570F.
  • Medium Rosé is recommended to be chilled at 550F to 600F.
  • Sweet Rosé should be cooled to 500F to 600F prior to serving.

Champagnes and Sparkling wines:

  • Sparkling wines are best enjoyed at 400F to 450F.
  • Champagnes and premium bubblies should be served at white wine temperature or 380F to 450F.

How To Reach The Right Temperature

Besides planning in advance, fermented drinks must be handled with care when chilling. Before you mimic all the methods advised on the internet for cooling wines quickly, check out which ones actually work.

Best Wine Chilling Methods That Work

  • Icy brine bath: Fill a bucket with ice, water, and salt to chill wines in less than 15 minutes.
  • Ice cubes: While ice cubes melt and change the tastes, they are the best in wine cocktails.
  • Bucket cubes: You can also fill up a bucket with ice cubes.
  • Reusable ice cubes: The stone-chilled cubes keep the wine cold for sufficient time without changing the flavors.
  • Grape cubes: Best ways to chill the wine moderately without diluting it.
  • By the glass: Place a glass or two of wine in the fridge instead of the bottle.

Best Wine Chilling Methods That Don’t Work

  • Chilled wine glass with a thin stem isn’t cooling enough for wines.
  • Sticking a bottle into the freezer isn’t a good idea given the liquid inside can expand, put pressure on the cork, and explore in the fridge or outside.

Bottom Line

When it comes to wine, every case is unique and every bottle special. That’s why it’s important to keep the best chilling practices for different types of wines in your mind at all times.