Wines of Italy Book - Great Book on Italian Wines

Wines of Italy

In 1995, I sent away to the Italian Trade Commission (back when you had to write to people) for their book, “Wines of Italy.” I had been interested in wine for some time and was looking to make sense of the myriad wines and regions of Italy. Since there was no real Internet back then, this was the only book I could find that was wholly dedicated to Italian Wine. I was not disappointed when I received it.
The book was published in 1994 by the Italian Trade Commission. It is broken down into a few different sections. It starts with some history of wines and winemaking in Italy. It also has a section on different wine related translations and how to read an Italian label. This is extremely helpful when standing in a store and trying to determine what some of the descriptions on the labels mean. Near the end, there is also a brief section on food and wine pairings with traditional Italian dishes.

The main part of the book is a breakdown of each state/region with the corresponding wines and a map of the location of the vineyards for each of the wines. This is only done for DOC and DOCG wines. (The book was published before the changes in laws about IGT). However, the section will mention other local wines of note. The best part is that it also gives a description of the wines along with the different styles in which they are made. As you can imagine, the Tuscany section is pretty large. It documents the locations of all 5 DOCGs and 21 DOC’s there. In all honesty, it is difficult to find most of the DOC’s in the United States unless you know a shop that specializes in Italian wine. I searched for years for any Vernaccia di San Gimagnano (a DOCG) and had very little luck. Now you can find them among the 500,000 different Pinot Grigios, but you have to look.

Region map

Piedmont is also chock full of good information, but I admit I turn to other books that spend more time on those regions, such as Windows on the World. They tend to highlight the major regions and give more information on the DOCG’s. So, I actually use this book for more unknown wines that are never covered in the larger books (most likely because so little is exported most people would never be able to find them). For example, I have never seen a major book that has covered Marche. This one does and you can read up on the 10 DOC’s there. Although, again, good luck finding them exported.
If you are taking a trip to Italy and staying away from the major regions, this is a good book to understand what to look for in each region. I am using it to plan a trip through Abruzzo currently. Although, in all honesty, this region is extremely simple with only two DOC’s, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo and Trebbiano D’Abruzzo. Of course, now we have many more resources available to us to plan trips, but this book can be used as a good starting point.

In all, this book was a godsend in 1995 when I was first learning about wine. Unfortunately, the book seems to have been out of print since 1994. I remember seeing an e-book that had been updated, but I was never able to find it on the Internet. The only thing a search comes up with now is some people selling them on eBay. I’m glad I still have my dog eared copy, it’s a fun little read when you are looking for maybe a new wine to try or just want to impress your friends with your knowledge of Ligurian wine!

Maple Syrup 2016

It’s that time of year again, where the nights are below freezing and the days are above.  This means that the maple sap is going to run and maple syrup is ready to be made.  This year has been a lot of warmer than last year in the Northeast.  We’ve only had a couple really cold days, but nothing like last year.  Everyone had said that last year was terrible for maple syrup here, but it was my first year so I didn’t know any better.  I put in 23 taps last year and made 6 gallons of syrup, which is a little better than I thought.  The rule of thumb is ¼ gallon per tap, so even with a bad year I hit that mark.
I ended up tapping on February 15th, a week earlier than last year.  I did this since the weather forecast was for perfect sap running weather, 45 and sunny during the day and 25 at night.  Due to me running out of time (and daylight), I only put in 36 taps.  The process was fairly easy, as I could mostly tell where the old taps were.  Some trees did a better job than others of closing the holes, but I was usually able to find the previous tap.  I simply moved at least 6 inches (in most cases 12” or more) away from the old hole and drilled a new one.  I had bought a new tapping bit and found that it drove into the wood much better than using a regular old drill bit.  In that first week, I got 45 gallons of sap.  I then put in the remaining taps (13 of them) on Saturday February 21st.  That day, it was 27 at night and hit 60 during the day with full sun.  I ended up with 46 gallons of sap in that one day.  The next day did drop to 30 at night and then warmed up to 50 during the day, leading to another 34 gallons.  I boiled all this down in one day.  So, after the first week, I already had 3 gallons of syrup.  This equates to 1/2 of all the stuff I made last year.  I also wasn’t able to make syrup until March 21st last year.  The trees apparently haven’t had to thaw out like they did last year, so any warm up is sending the sap right up the trees.  Looking forward to another 4-5 weeks of syrup season and great weather to go along with it.
The next week for sap was great.  There was a period of cold weather followed by an extensive warmup.  What I have found is that you don’t have to have each day below freezing and each day above freezing.  You can have a couple cold days followed by really warm days and you will get massive amounts of sap.  We had two of these in two weeks.  The amount of sap was unbelievable.  At one point, I had 120 gallons of sap.  Since my evaporator can only do about 6 gallons an hour, it was going to be a long couple days.  Luckily, we discovered that we can fill the evaporator with sap overnight and utilize the dying fire to evaporate sap.  This way, we were able to evaporate 12 gallons in our sleep.  This saved roughly 2 hours of active boiling.  I’m not concerned with the low temp evaporation, as we still end up with a rigorous boil to finish it.  The resultant syrup tasted the same as ones that we actively boiled the entire time.  All in all, by the time we hit March 15th, we had 11 gallons of syrup done. 

By March 17th, the trees had still not budded, so we are looking at 1 more run for the season.  We are going to get cold for a couple days and then warm up again, so looking for that one final run of sap to perhaps make about 3-4 more gallons of syrup
So, the weather has been unusually warm the last couple weeks, leading to very little run of sap.  However, this doesn’t mean there has been absolutely no run.  I have been getting a good 10 gallons or so on days when it cools down slightly and warms up during the day.  This has allowed me to catch my breath.