Vacanze Italiane - Wine & Food Pairing in Amsterdam

The most festive tasting of all - with Vacanze Italiane I wanted to take the participants on a tour to the Italian wine regions via the glass. Obviously, we can’t travel all the Italian wine regions within one tasting, but I made sure we included as many wines as possible in our line up, without overwhelming anyone too much :)

During this wine tasting event we presented 6 Italian wines from different corners of Italy, all of them made from rare and indigenous grape varieties, all of them our own import. You can buy these wines from our online wine store - Once Upon A Wine (shipping in Netherlands and Belgium, other regions - reach out to discuss the possibilities). The wine and dine event was hosted at the Al Bacaro Osteria Italiana - an authentic Italian restaurant in the heart of Amsterdam that focuses on slow food and seasonal, organic ingredients.

italian wine and food event in Amsterdam by Terroir Journey
4 out of 6 pictured - guess which wines are missing :)

Let’s start with our first wine region - Emilia-Romagna.

Wine number 1 - Valtiberia, Podere Sottoilnoce, Emilia-Romagna

Emilia-Romagna is a historical wine region in Italy, wine was made here for thousands of years, the plain and fertile area around Po river has a very generous soil so the focus here was on quantity until recent times.

At the end of 20th century, many small boutique wineries emerged in the hilly areas of Piacenza, Bologna, Romagna, with a focus on local grapes. Here the focus is on showing the different terroirs of the region and all of a sudden Emilia-Romagna gained serious following especially among Italians. We can say it’s still an off-the-radar region for outsiders, because abroad many people still remember the region for cheap, pink, medium-sweet, semi-sparkling Lambrusco wines, which weren’t anything serious at all.

In fact , Emilia-Romagna is one of the oldest wine regions of Italy, the Etruscans started making wine here in 7 BC, and the Romans continued the tradition and used the region (as the Via Emilia road) to transport wine between cities.

Our today’s wine (actually the 1 and 2 wines) come from Castelvetro di Modena, an ancient Etruscan settlement. Here they produce sparkling wines from Lambrusco mainly, or Trebbiano di Modena - like this rare white wine. Trebbiano is actually used for the famous balsamico vinegar from Modena, it is not even listed among the wine grapes of Italy, but in Modena historically this is a wine grape indeed.

italian wine and food pairings in Amsterdam
Max Brandolo of Podere Sottoilnoce

This is a biodynamic wine, so far certified organic, but the rest is coming too, it’s suitable for vegans which means it’s not filtered or fined with products of animal origin (most wines are), actually it’s not filtered at all.

Wine profile:


Podere Sottoilnoce

Trebbiano di Modena

semi-sparkling white wine, ancestral method

Lively, quince and lemon notes, brisk fizz, stacks of perfume. Feels youthful and nervous, tangy and refreshing, some grip to texture and a starburst of acidity that finishes the wine with strong minerally characters. You could say rich, but the delicacy and tang of freshness is all there; bitter, salty-saline, fruity in balance. Built for ageing too.

We paired Valtiberia with a mousse from mortadella and prosciutto di Parma.

Wine number 2 - Mennabo, Podere Sottoilnoce, Emilia-Romagna

The next wine comes from the same winery - Podere Sottoilnoce. The name translates as a farm under the walnut tree. There’s a saying that says nothing grows under a walnut tree and it’s funny because Max’s best and oldest vineyards actually stand under a huge walnut tree.

Max Brandolo, the owner, had a corporate career in Milano until he decided to relocate with his family to the country side and start his own winery in 2017. From the beginning he knew he would stick to organic farming, native grapes and biodynamic practices by Rudolf Steiner.

He’s cultivating the varieties of Lambrusco - Grasparossa, Fioranese, Sorbara, and the two Trebbianos - di Spagna and Modenese.

Castelvetro di Modena, Emilia-Romagna

He’s vineyards are full of biodiversity - animals, woods, any sort of vegetation, no synthetical products are used here. The fermentation is spontaneous with native yeasts, then the second fermentation (to make the wine sparkling) happens in the bottle. Max adds frozen grape must from the same vintage - so it contains both yeast and sugar to restart fermenting.

This is his Lambrusco wine, he also has a rare still Lambrusco (usually they’re sparkling) which you can find in my store and order separately.

Wine profile:


Podere Sottoilnoce

Lambrusco Grasparossa

semi-sparkling red wine, ancestral method

"Mennabò" is a red sparkling wine which is striking for its fruity fragrance, genuine frankness and a decidedly irresistible and refreshing drink. On the nose it is thin and delicate, characterized by notes of small red fruits (wild strawberry and black cherry), juicy plum, notes of violet and light nuances of earth and yeasts. The taste is fresh and dry, with a vibrant freshness and a light bubble that make it satisfying and drinkable.

We paired Mennabo with a Culatello di Zibello.

Wine number 3 - Mutabilis, Azienda Agricola Matunei, Piemonte

The third wine - a rosato - is coming from Piemonte, unusual region for a rosé, usually a land of red wines. Piemonte means at the foot of the mountains, actually only 5% of its’ land is flat. If you are interested in Piemonte you should join our next Sunday tasting with 7 different Nebbiolo wines.

Az Agr Matunei

Monferrato is where this wine comes from includes the areas of Asti and Alessandria, in the southeast of the region. This region is dominated by reds from Barbera, Dolcetto, Grignolino and Freisa. Our rosato is made from Freisa - an ancient local grape and supposedly one of the parents of the famous Nebbiolo grape. It has very high levels of tannins and acidity.

The winery - Matunei - is a family run small winery in Monferrato, Matune means little boy in Piemontese and that’s have the old locals call the owner Alberto. They’re organic certified, they don’t filter or fine wines, don’t use any synthetic products and they also have a small hotel - agriturismo, in case you are in the area do visit them.

Wine profile:

Mutabilis rosato

Az. Agr. Matunei


still rosato wine

The wine is macerated on skins for 2 hours and aged in stainless steel for 8 months.Not fined, not filtered. The name comes from an ancient Chinese rose called Mutabilis Chinensis. The color of this rose varies during flowering, from scarlet red to orange to pink. Just as the color of the rose varies, our rosé acquires new shades from year to year according to the season and the ripeness of the grapes.

We paired Mutabilis with a Vitello Tonnato.

Wine number 4 - Etna Bianco DOC, Pietradolce, Etna DOC, Sicily

The next wine comes from a volcano - the biggest active volcano in Europe - Etna. It’s a very strange place, actually the vineyards are at around 1000 m altitude on the volcano, and there’s no real soil here only lava that formed rocks while cooling, or volcanic sand. There’re also more than 100 years old vineyards here - they’re unlike most of the vineyards in the wold standing on their own roots. These vineyards resisted the most deadly disease we had in the wine world - phylloxera, and kept their roots.

Michelle Faro of Pietradolce (on the right)

Etna’s viticulture is 6000 years old, those of you who attended our last event dedicated to Etna remember this well. Many things remain the same over centuries and millenia on Etna - for example, the vines are trained the same way as they were in 8 century BC - they’re standing as bushes and there’s just one wooden stake to support them.

This wine is made from Carricante - a native grape to the eastern slopes of the volcano. It used to have a bad reputation for being very productive, you know a vine that makes a lot of grapes cannot make quality wine. But when grown at 1000 m altitude in rocks, not soil, the yield is controlled naturally and the wine is super mineral and refined.

See it for yourself. I adore this wine.

Wine profile:

Etna Bianco DOC



still white wine

The color of the Pietradolce Banco is intense straw yellow. In the nose expressions of white fruit, florality, fresh herbs, almonds and salty minerality. On the palate we find nicely balanced acidity and the typical salty minerality.

We paired Etna Bianco with a Ricciola (Amberjack) and pistachio.

Wine number 5 - Cru HTH, Agri Segretum, Umbria

The next wine comes from Central Italy - Umbria. It’s one of the few landlocked regions in the country, between the Apennine and Sub-Apennine mountains. Some parts of it get really cold in winter, especially on the border with Chianti. It’s a land of ancient Etruscan traditions, here already 3000 years ago cellars were built for ageing wine. This is also the green heart of Italy, with lots of wood and lakes.

Agri Segretum, Umbria

Agri Segretum - the winery our wine comes from is from Todi DOC, the latest DOC zone of Umbria. It’s known for Grecchetto and Sangiovese (they’re proving to Tuscany that they can do Sangiovese even better than the Tuscans) and a part of it borders with Montefalco - the famous homeland of Sagrantino.

The structure of Sagrantino is similar to the tannins of cocoa, that’s why it’s common to say it’s healthy to drink Sagrantino for your heart. It’s a grape that can be cellared for 30+ years due to these tannins. Its’ name comes from the Byzantine times when monks called this grape “sacred”. Traditionally they were making sweet passito wines from it, until the late 20th century, and that’s when Sagrantino became a grape interesting for a wider range of winelovers.

Today’s wine coming from an organic winery in Umbria. It’s made only in the best years, from the best grapes harvested mid October. It’s aged in the cellar for 6+ years, this wines is from 2013. So 9 years old Sagrantino for you to explore.

Wine profile:

Cru HTH 2013

Agri Segretum


still red wine

This wine rests in the cantina for at least 6 years, of which 24 months in French oak barriques. Intense and persistent, this wine is dedicated to HTH, a special vineyard of Agri Segretum. There's no added sulphur in the wine. This wine is made only on exceptional vintages, when the balance is right and the yields can allow it, Lorenzo makes this mono-varietal wine as his top bottling at the property. Only 490 bottles were produced in 2013!

We paired Cru HTH with a beef fillet and black truffle.

Wine number 6 - Thurcalesu, Cantina Berritta, Sardinia

The last wine comes from the least known wine region in Italy. Sardinia was not taken seriously for long time but the composition of soil and the local grapes are a guarantee that there’s a lot of potential which we still haven’t explored mainly because it’s an island wine.

Antonio Berritta of Cantina Berritta

Sardegna was under Aragon rule for 4 centuries that’s why many of it’s grapes are Spanish. Well, some of them might have originated in Sardinia and migrated to Spain and others vice versa. For example, Vermentino is the most loved white grape of the island, it spread to Liguria and Piemonte (Favorita), and to southern France (Rolle). Cannonau is the same grape as Garnacha and Grenache and we don’t know for sure where it’s origins are.

Because of the mediterranean climate it’s quite easy to do organic winemaking, this is why I love Sardinia as there’re many organic certified producers emerging.

Cantina Berritta is a family run winery they’ve been making wine and olive oil for generations in Sardegna. Antonio the current owner he brought the focus on organic cultivation and more towards local grapes like Cannonau, Vermentino and Panzale. Panzale is a rare grape that he personally revived, it wasn’t used for winemaking for long time. They’re a small producer, only 30 000 bottles is made annually.

And we’re tasting their Thurcalesu wine from 100% Cannonau, from their best vineyards. The wine is very concentrated, those of you who know Garnacha or Grenache know how often it lacks colour and tannin, well not this one.

Wine profile:


Cantina Berritta

Cannonau di Sardegna

still red wine

This wine is a varietal Cannonau that rests in barrels of oak, aquiring a fine balance of typical aromas and structure. Ripe red fruits, herbs and delicate spices define its' elegant olfactory profile. A full-bodied red with well-polished tannins, obtained from an accurate selection of vines of over 25 years.

All the wines from the tasting can be purchased as a whole collection or by bottle on my online wine store Once Upon A Wine.

If you were among the participants of this tasting I will appreciate your reviews on Google.

If not, than what prevents you joining our next tasting or travel with us to the wine regions to meet producers and taste their wines in person. The two upcoming tours are:

Turkey Wine Tour (September 8-11)

Romania Wine Tour (October 20-23)

More pictures from the Vacanze Italiane wine and dine event in Amsterdam below.

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