Tagged: Isole e Olena

Euro 2012, the Finals- High Noon in my Cellar

 A delayed post to sum up a GREAT event; The Euro 2012 Final


So as the teams get ready for the BIG FINALE, sorting out their players, see who is fit and who would have to miss the squad. Prepare the list of substitutes, the strategy of game, against a known “enemy” on an unknown day. Isn’t that what makes Sport in general and football in particular a mostly harmless (not always!!), substitute of WAR?!


Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has said he will try to find out the weaknesses in the Spain team, and would then set up his team to exploit those during their Euro Cup final showdown on Sunday in Kiev.

We did not invent these notions, us humans of the 20th and 21st century.

The ancient Olympic Games are shrouded in mystery and legend but first records indicate that they began in 776 BC in Olympia west Peloponnesus Greece. They were celebrated until 394 AD when they were suppressed by Theodosius claiming them to be a ritual of a pagan cult. The Games were usually held every four years, or Olympiad, as the unit of time came to be known. During a celebration of the Games, an Olympic Truce was enforced, wars were willingly stopped in their midst without resolve, allowing free and safe pass to all soldiers / athletes who traveled from their countries to the Games in safety. The prizes for the victors were wreaths of laurel leaves Hellanodikis used to place a sacred olive tree wreath- kotinos, on the winner’s head.


I know I have made a slight U turn from the issue at hand, after all it is my blog, but I’ll get back to the point.

So, as the teams got ready I had to get cracking, choosing the right team from the wines of each country ONLY from my own humble cellar, this is not an easy task since the cellar is unfortunately not amazingly stocked with THE Great wines of any of these wonderful wine countries, but I thinks I can manage fairly on both sides so: same disadvantages or “rules” apply on both sides, FAIR? and so the showdown begins it’s HIGH NOON in my Cellar!


They stand in the tunnel the tension is sky high, I am a bit concerned with the gloom on Casillas face he is usually calm (he is a well trained War Horse), but not today! does he feel the weight of the occasion? Or is he not 100% fit??? On the other side, Buffon is calm and assured on the outside (the poor bugger one of the world’s BEST goalkeepers will collect the ball 4 times from inside the net (But we know all that by now, apologies for the delay)

On the “wine field” the match is more even… I can turn it with words to either side… for… if the final score would have been different (in Italy’s favor) I would still present the same wines as “my teams” but twist it in favor of the outcome so let us be fair, the cellar does contain some great wines from good to great vintage years to represent a winning team on either side… Same as the teams in front of us but how will they perform as a team? Will the sommelier (open the bottles on time to serve them at their best, let them breath to just the right point of oxidation, decide to decant a wine of sorts oversee the correct serving temperature to name but a few of his responsibilities.

The line up




                                                                         01 Casillas

                                  03 Pique,   15 Ramos,   17 Arbeloa,   18 Alba 

             06 Iniesta (Mata – 87′ ),  08 Xavi ,  10 Fabregas (Torres – 75′ )

                            14 Xabi Alonso,   16 Busquets,    21 Silva (Pedrito – 59′ )

Substitutes:  07 Pedrito,  09 Torres,  13 Mata

Sommelier Coach– Vicente del Bosque: A coach to envy, with all the talent he has at hand. The players like his calm approach to the squad. He lead his side to the 2010 World Cup final and Cup. Winning the Euro 2012 title will place him among the all-time great national managers/coaches.


  1. Vega Sicilia Unico 1991 – (Iniesta ) This is Vega sicilia Gran Reserva wine produced only on good vintage years. It is released only on Super Vintages and released a minimum of 10 years or even more after the vintage. Made from the oldest vines in the Ribera del Duero, the wine is mostly Tempranillo ( 80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon ( 20%)

The 1991 Unico Reserva, Laid down for 14 yeard before release on 2005. With a deep dark purple color. Aromas of black ripe forest berries soaked in a good brandy, some Vanilla, dried fruits figs and aromatic Cigar noticeable touch. Very powerful “encounter” on the palate but the tannins are rounded though present, will go on evolving. It’s has great finesse combined with a great balance of youthful fruit and tannins to keep it alive for another 20-30 years.

  1. La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Cosecha 1987 – (Casillas) A wine glistening in brilliant, red colour with light brown edges. The wine is still extremely aromatic and elegant In the mouth, with notes of cinnamon cloves and all spice with a touch of vanilla. It is now smooth with rounded tannins flowing on the palate but has a very long satisfying finish  It will continue to develop tertiary aromas and approachability.
  2. L’Ermita Alvaro Palacios 1997  -( Xavi)  ” Powerful aromas of ripe black fruit  in blueberry Jam, good oncentration of fruits and precise balance with tannins. This must be Spain’s most expensive wine! It reveals a pleasant liqueur touch on the nose as well as on the palate. It is elegant with but powerful, with fresh fruit and pleasant minerality characteristic of its geological origins in Priorat. Great stuff (it wasn’t a waste on you guys “The Wine Guzzlers”  that memorable night in Paris…
  3. Marques de Riscal 1994 Gran Reserva

This Gran Reserva contains 20% of Cabernet Sauvignon and of course  70% tempranillo and 10% mazuelo Probably the best Rioja vintage of the nineties.  Aged 29 months in American oak, then three years in bottle, to become a multilayered wine of great surprise

  1. Marques de Caceres 1994 Gaudium

A new super Riojan from Caceres, made only in the best vintage years. Aged in French oak and produced under the watchful eyes of the “flying Oenologist” Michel Rolland. This effort resulted in a wine with aromas of black ripe cherries with a touch of cedar shaving and tobacco with a touch of Mediterranean herbs. It comes out as an elegant wine with fine tannin structure. Very good length and vitality.


6. Muga Reseva 1988 Rioja

7. Vega sicilia, Tinto Valebuena No 5 Ribera del duoro cosecha 1992

8. Bodegas del Marques de Vargas Rioja Reserva Privada 1994

9. 1994 Miguel Torres Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Coronas Reserva Mas La Plana

10. Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Rioja 1986    When all wines in Spain were local wines consumed by local   people Ygay Gran Reserva was the Spanish wine Ambassador around the world.

11. Marques de Morrieta Ygay Reserva 1988 Rioja

12. Marques de Haro Gran Reserva 1989 Larioja Alta  This is a dbl. Magnum (3 L) special edition wine for the millenniu


13. Marques de Riscal Reserva 1993

14. Parés Baltà Mas Irene 2003 (Arbeloa)

15. Lustan Pedro Ximénez Murilla , 100 Anos 1896-1996 A Massive sweet wine

16. Don PX Pedro Ximénez Gran Reserva (1972)Cordoba Sweat Nectar

17. Torre Muga 2004 Bodegas Muga Rioja – Wine Spectator magazine, rated Torre Muga 2004 amongst their 10 best red wines of the world list for 2007.

The Line up




                                                                        01 Buffon

          03 Chiellini (Balzaretti – 21′ ),   07 Abate,  15 Barzagli,  19 Bonucci,

                      08 Marchisio,   16 De Rossi,  18 Montolivo (Motta – 56′ ),  21 Pirlo  

                                    09  Balotelli ,  10 Cassano (Di Natale – 46′ )


    06 Balzaretti,   05 Motta,   11 Di Natale

 Italy coach / sommelier, Cesare Prandelli – After 5 successful years in Fiorentina agreed to try and save the Nation from a disastrous past champagne brought new young players entrusted the Azure (Blue team), in their talented feet they did well on the field and made Italy proud.


The Wines:

  1. 1.    1990 Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva Villa Antinori – (Buffon) An old timer always reliable, sound Toscan wine.
  2. 2.    Sassicaia 2004 – (Pirlo) The best Sassicaia of the last 10 years…A great wine always performs well.
  3. 3.    1998 Isole e Olena Cabernet Sauvignon Collezione de Marchi Toscana IGT
  4. 4.    Cepparello 1990 – always shines amongst the best in good  vintages. The ’90 is sleek and focused, with vivid blackberry, tar and cedar character. Full-bodied, with full, silky tannins and a super finish. Made from Sangiovese.
  5. 5.    Isole e Olena Cepparello 2006
  6.   Isosole e Olena Cepparello 2005:
  7. Isole e Olena, Vin Santo 1997 (bottled 2003) Deep Amber colour, with golden ccopper hue. A dessert wineto die for!!! This the closest you get to the Nectar of the Gods (chosen by Zeus off Dionysus hands), Honeyed thick wine to the eye with rich scents dried figs and raisins and dried orange peel still light on the palate without the sugar overtones other Vin santo’s have, due to good balancing acidic touch some vanilla on the finish make it the perfect desert a blessing to god and men. But I wrote all that in one of the past posts: Utopia etc.


8.    Castellare Chianti Classico 2000

With Intense ruby red in color. The bouquet is very fruity with spiced deep black cherries aroma, very well balanced Chianti with rounded approachable tannins. It reminds blackcurrants and Plum confiture, Yumm

9.    2007 Ripasso Bosan della Valpolicella Superiore ,   Producer: Gerardo Cesari  Veneto  Grapes: Corvina, Rondinella. Alcohol Volume: 14.00% From the Bosan vineyard one of Gerardo Cesari in Valpolicella

This wine is made by refermentation of Valpolicella wines of the same or previous vintage on the fermented grapes used in the Amarone production process: ripasso. The wine gains depth in colour, body, aromas and tannins and extra 1-1.5% alcohol by the process. Winemaking Notes Grapes: 80% Corvina, 20% Rondinella.

10. 1997 Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, Veneto, Italy

One of Veneto’s most famous and prestigious wines.

11. Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto Toscana IGT 1997

12. Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 1997

13. 1998 Tedeschi La Fabriseria, Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOCG, Italy

14. Masi Valpolicella  1993

You should all know by now that Spain won 4:0 and went into the history books of world football by winning the last 3 major tournaments they qualified for 2 consecutive Euro Finals and the Mondial becoming Champions of the world with talent and style!!!

Players to remember from both teams:


The wines were all wines to remember in their own way some were better than others, but this is how it always goes… As you see the Spanish sommelier had more quality wines at hand on the substitutes bench and he made better use of them to bring the team to the winning position they did deserve, on the day

We’ll meet again during the Olympic games for (almost) more of the same with new faces and different sports.

Your wineguide

Utopia, Pienza,some cheese and The wines of ISOLE E OLENA


The town of Pienza was originally know as Corsignano, a small and humble Toscan village. But its most famous son, Enea Silvio de’Piccolomini, a well known poet, philosopher and politician and a ‘Renaissance humanist’, was elected Pope in 1458.  A year later, as Pius II he hired architect Bernardo Rossellino to redesign the entire village of Corsignano along the ideas of ‘Renaissance humanism’ which are basically Utopian. No one is quite sure why Pius II, (born in Corsignano in 1405), decided to create a model city from his humble birthplace, but he did, and he hired the architect Rossellino to do the job.  Another mystery that surrounds the birth of Pienza is the motivation of the architect: did Rossellino set out to build an original model city, a monument to Pius, or a faithful recreation of his patron’s dreams?  No one is quite sure.  What we do know is that the town was built as a model example of classic Renaissance architecture. It took only 4 years, from 1459 to 1462, to achieve this transformation and the town was built to a precise design encompassing the ideals of the Renaissance, a sort of perfect city…and the town is really magnificent. Set in a gorgeous archetypal Tuscan landscape, Pienza, christened so by Pius after his Papal name, draws visitors with Rosellino’s monuments to Pius II that form the core of this model city:  its central piazza Piazza Pio II, , the Duomo, and the Papal Palace. All the major sights in Pienza sit here, on Rosellino’s famous piazza.  The piazza itself is elegantly proportional, and appears simple in design. It is set much more as a place where citizens could carry out their daily lives, rather than an impressive and perhaps grandiose statement.

Half a century later the utopian concept of an Ideal City originated a book: Utopia. by Sir Thomas More (1516) where it is depicted as an imaginary island (the black and white picture top center), enjoying perfection in order of construction of the basic layout of the “city” and all other social elements: law, politics, and social justice. It describes an ideal place or state in all aspects.

The reference to agriculture states: “They cultivate their gardens with great care, so that they have both vines, fruits, herbs, and flowers in them; and all is so well ordered and so finely kept that I never saw gardens anywhere that were both so fruitful and so beautiful as theirs.  And this humour of ordering their gardens so well is not only kept up by the pleasure they find in it, but also by an emulation between the inhabitants of the several streets, who vie with each other. And there is, indeed, nothing belonging to the whole town that is both more useful and more pleasant.

Utopia as an idea has expended to describe any visionary system of political social or esthetic perfection, and nowadays as the unattainable perfection in all aspects of human aspirations. In short as much as we strive to attain perfection it is beyond our grasp partially due to our basic human flaws.

 The Cheese – Pecorino di Pienza


The word “pecorino”, from “pecora” – a ewe –sheep, is a quite recent invention. Until70 years ago, locals used the term “cacio”, and indeed the cheese rolling competition held in Pienza on the first Sunday of September is know as “cacio al fuso” –  The aim of the participants in this popular festival is to see who can roll the cheese so that it stops closest to the spindle.

Pecorino di Pienza is a unique sheep’s milk cheese and it gets its name from the ancient city of Pienza, (just 13Km east of Montepulciano).

The pecorino cheese of Pienza is one of the best in Italy, especially the version ‘sotto cenere’ or ‘under the ashes’. The cheese has ancient origins and has probably been produced in the zone since man first settled here. This particular cheese is sometimes known as ‘Pecorino della Val d’Orcia’ or ‘Cacio di Pienza’ it is produced between October and July and seasoned for up to 2 months to give it its distinctive flavour. The sheep are raised out in the open and graze exclusively on the local flora. The aromas of rare plants that grow in the clay soil of the Crete Senesi (wormwood, meadow salsify, juniper, broom, and  burnet ) Their aroma can be sensed in the sheep’s milk. After milking the sheep, the milk enters immediately into the cheese-making process. It is coagulated with veal rennet, or rennet made from the stamen of wild artichoke, marinated in vinegar and salt, or left to dry and then placed in warm water. The wheels of cheese mature in very humid cellars and periodically their walnut leaf-wrapped rinds are damped first with Tuscan olive oil, then with grease and wax.


The round wheels can vary from around 10 -20cm in diameter around 1-2Kg.  After about 40 to 60 days the fresh cheese is ready to be consumed and has a soft, slightly spicy flavor. If left to age for five to twelve, sometimes even eighteen months.

(The entire process can be seen in this video:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7jZhDM51CU )

The aged cheese has a nutty tannic aftertaste which reminds fresh pecan nuts with the separating membrane, and a soft, crumbly texture in the mouth. Pecorino di Pienza pairs perfectly with the wines of the region, from Chianti to Montepulciano.

The fresh pecorino (pecorino fresco) is a soft, white cheese with a comparatively mild but still strong flavour. The texture can range from soft and moist to crumbly and granular, but is usually the former. A variety that is often eaten fresh is known as Pecorino Toscano and is made in Tuscany. It has a whiter colored paste that is creamier in texture, providing a somewhat nutty flavour. under recent laws, a cheese marketed as pecorino must now be made 100% from ewes’ milk. Another Tuscan pecorino is the Pecorino Senese or Senesi, which is a cheese that has a reddish rind due to the rind being rubbed with tomato paste. In years past, the rind was rubbed with sheep blood to obtain the red colour. These are so good on their own but also with red or white wine and locak bread of course YUMMM.

As the pecorino ages, the bone-coloured paste becomes darker in color with a firmer texture and a saltier flavor. The rind is light on pecorino fresco, and orange- or black-coloured on a medium and fully matured pecorino (pecorino stagionato).

…And The wines!

My favorite winery and wines of the Tuscan region come from a small but well known winery in the chianti region in a small commune between Castellina in chianti and Greve, Olena Barberino Val d’Elsa Firenze, Italy. Here between the small communes of Isole and Olena lies the beautiful winery and vineyards of Paulo the Marchi and his wife Marta; Isole e Olena winery.


I have known Marta and Paolo for over 20 years now and even had the honor of having them and their children for Lunch at our house on their first and only visit to Israel.(amongst them was young Luca who is now a winemaker in his own right, making Piemonte wines in Proprieta Sperina in Lessona the old family estate) “We must come again for a visit to Israel next Easter” if I can find the time… but he is ALWAYS too busy with the vineyards and winery, so we meet from time to time in Toscana, and over the years Isole e Olena have been transformed from a farm house with muddy paths and winery razzamatazz to a country home with a ultra modern winery beside it and atmospheric, classic looking cellars, Inspiring.

Not only they make excellent wines that gained worldwide acclaim (picked amongst Italy’s greatest ever wines by Decanter magazine in 2008, make it to the top 100 list of Wine spectator Magazine almost every year since 1990’s,  Isole e Olena’s flagship, Cepparello gets 90+ points  since 1982 almost every year. (have a look at this list: http://90pluswines.com/Wine/21461091/Isole-e-Olena)

Cepparello was first produced in 1980, well before the change in local DOC regulations that allowed for a single varietal Sangiovese wine, I think  you can say that Paolo was a pioneer of the pure Sangiovese movement.

Isole e Olena is comprised of two farms/communities: “Isole” and “Olena,” acquired by the De Marchi family in the 1950s. The family’s origins are from northern part of Piemonte. Paolo de Marchi, is the fourth generation of the family to make wine in Italy, but he moved from Sperino in Lessona, Nebbiolo country to Toscana and it’s Sangiovese. It took 15 hard years of work before he was producing the quality wines he aspired to. With the help of enologist Donato Lanati, he has continued to excel as one of the region’s top estates.

Paolo de Marchi’s belief in Toscana’s indigenous Sangiovese, and production of  “Super-Tuscan” wines from grapes not indigenous to the Chianti region, together with his “contradicting” love to the characteristics of good Chianti, has set him apart from other producers in the early days, by making one of the finest Chianti Classico’s on the market. Paolo still produces small amounts of wine from international varieties, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Chardonnay.

As a young winemaker Paolo was so over occupied with his strive to perfection, that he did not have time for tourism, “It would distract us from our wines.” That was in the 1980’s and 1990’s when the Utopian Idea of a perfect wine being possible was burning in his veins. (If it wasn’t for Marta’s support I cannot see this period passing by without ill effects.) In the last 10 years Paolo and Marta managed to build (mostly underground, and in spite of the strict building regulations of the region) one of the most exquisite and beautiful winery and underground cellars of all Toscana. From a small boutique winery adjacent to an old country farm house, it became a place of pride and joy and rightly so!  Well worth a visit. Isole e Olena is also worth visiting if you like to talk wines (arrange well in advance), the passion and enthusiasm in the air when Polo talks about wine is contagious, educational, and inspiring.

I have a feeling that now the idea of making the best wine I can, rather than the BEST or the perfect wine, is at the core of the winery’s philosophy. It leads to wines produced at Isole e Olena: some superb Chianti Classico, of course the Cepparello, the pure Sangiovese with all its finesse and complexity, the most multilayered perfectly spiced Vinsanto of the region (in my mind), and the Collezione de Marchi line of Cabernet Sauvignon,  Chardonnay, and L’Eremo, from local Syrah grapes, which Paolo originally intended to use to add color and depth to his Chianti Classico However nowadays a careful selection of Sangiovese (Chianti’s principal grape),is used to achieve this goal, and The Syrah is used to produce the wonderful  L’Eremo  .

I have tasted almost all the Cepparello’s from 1985 and on, but today we tasted the cepparello 2005 and 2006, the chianti classic 2006, The chardonnay 2007, and some older Cepparellos 2003, and 2000. (the legendry 1997 was packed as a “take away” present.) and Vinsanto 1997

Just a few tasting notes the rest you can look up on the net…

Isole e Olena, Collezione de Marchi Chardonnay, IGT Toscana 2007

light golden hue, sweet apple compote on the nose with a touch of ripe pineapple scent  notes of sweet oak in the background, Very refreshing in spite of the alcohol feel at the finish.

2006 Isole e Olena Cepparello

This rich wine is a contradiction to the Vintage conditions. A hot year with full maturity still the wine is fairly light, medium bodied and none of the expected alcoholic over feel (14% alcohol). It has mint and nepitella herbal touch very floral on the nose with sweet spices aromas of blackberries and black cherries confiture with a touch of cinnamon and cloves that gives it a sweet jammy feel. But these are so well balanced with the bursting fruit acidity and firm but accessible tannins. It has extremely long finish. (I held on to my empty glass just for the alluring after sniff)

Isole e Olena Cepparello 2005: Dark red with purple robe than Explosuion of ripe red fruits and berries on the nose and firm tannins and good acidity on the palate which balances the wine very well and allow it to be a great keeper. It has the Cepparello elegance with undertones of green fresh peppered oregano. The alcoholic strength it felt and will mellow in time as all the elements combine in a few years.

Isole e Olena, Vin Santo 1997 (bottled 2003)
This the closest you get to the Nectar of the Gods (chosen by Zeus off Dionysus hands), Honeyed thick wine to the eye with rich scents dried figs and raisins and dried orange peel still light on the palate without the sugar overtones other Vin santo’s have, due to good balancing acidic touch some vanilla on the finish make it the perfect desert a blessing to god and men..

Another amazing afternoon with Marta and Paolo,  Grazie mille per la vostra amicizia .

Visits by appointment only!

Contact details:

Address: Isole 1, Località Olena 50021 Barberino Val d’Elsa

Telephone: +39 055 807 2767     +39 055 807 2763

Email: isolena@tin.it