Nonino featured in Wine Spectator

Elisabetta Nonino and Distilleria Nonino are featured in the June issue of Wine Spectator: “A Grappa Convert” by Jack Bettridge.

Click here to download a printable (PDF) version of the article.

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Filed under distillery, Grappa Nonino, history

Our thoughts and prayers for the victims of the Emilia-Romagna earthquake

Above: The Renaissance Torre dell’Orologio (Clock Tower) in the town of Finale Emilia, the epicenter of the 6.0 earthquake Sunday in Emilia-Romagna.

“Firefighters, surveyors, engineers and volunteers struggled through nearly continuous aftershocks on Monday,” wrote Elisabetta Provoledo in yesterday’s edition of The New York Times, “to catalog damage and deter looters one day after an earthquake killed 7 people and left more than 6,000 homeless in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy.”

“More than 120 aftershocks rocked the area in the hours following the magnitude-6.0 earthquake, which toppled factories, apartment buildings, and medieval and Renaissance monuments early Sunday.”

Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Finale Emilia and the region of Emilia-Romagna…

Of course, the news of the Emilia-Romagna quake brings to mind memories of the tragic 1976 earthquake in Friuli where 989 people were killed, 2,400 injured, and 157,000 were left homeless.

The audio in the video below comes from a young man who happened to be recording an LP record on cassette tape using a microphone when the earthquake occurred. Even after the needle jumped from the vinyl, the microphone continued to record the event.

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Crudo, Friulian style…

Perhaps because of the recent craze of Japanese cuisine in Italy, crudo has become increasingly popular there.

In Friuli, they’ve served crudo long before anyone in Italy made hamachi or swordfish “carpaccio.”

Traditionally, crudo is served in Friuli in its purest form: crudo, in other words, raw: no salt, no seasoning, no frills, no affectation (like the langoustines from the Gulf of Trieste above).

If anything, crudo is accompanied by a lemon wedge and a glass of [Tocai] Friulano or Ribolla.

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When it comes to the grape pomace, it’s all about the freshness…

When you visit the Nonino distillery during grape harvest, you can smell the aroma of grape pomace as it arrives from the family’s partner-wineries.

“It’s all about the freshness of the pomace,” said Elisabetta Nonino (in the photo above) when we visited last October. “That’s the key to freshness in the grappa and aromatics that are true to the grape variety.”

Historically, the Nonino family has been the author of two major innovations in the production of fine grappa.

The first was that the family convinced grape growers and winemakers to keep the grape varieties separate. This allowed the distillery to make the first monovarietal grappa. In doing so, they were able to deliver a distilled expression of the grape that was true to the aromatic and flavor profile of the variety.

The second was the fact that, instead of waiting for the growers and winemakers to deliver the pomace, the Nonino family members went themselves to pick up the pomace as soon as the grapes had been pressed for vinification. At the time, the notion of treating pomace with such care was unthinkable. Today, thanks to the Nonino family, it is common operating procedure for all of Italy’s top distillers.

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Frico

Friuli is a region with an especially rich culinary tradition. One of the undisputed stars of the cucina friulana is frico. Historically, these hearty snacks were sent out into the field with farm workers and woodsmen. They kept well, and provided a substantial and nutritional meal.

Frico, in short, is pan-fried cheese. Montasio of medium age is thinly sliced and put in a pan with oil, butter, and/or lard then browned on both sides until crunchy. This style of frico is popular as an aperitivo or can be used to create an edible basket for any number of stuffings. Pliable when hot, it crisps up as it cools and can keep for days.

This is the basic frico, but there are as many variations as there are valleys in Friuli. The two most common are frico with potatoes and frico with onions. These types can be thicker with golden crusts around the outsides and a warm, gooey center. One can imagine the goodness in that!

The dish goes back at least to the fifteenth century, when it was recorded in the famous Maestro Martino cookbook. As with many dishes of the day, it combined the savory with the sweet by dressing it with cinnamon and sugar. While this preparation is no longer in use, the classic frico is still enjoyed in homes and restaurants all over the region.

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Amaro

Amaro means bitter in Italian, it is also the name of a category of after-dinner drinks, or digestivi. Usually registering from 16-35% alcohol, these liqueurs are flavored with any number of citrus, herbs, flowers, and roots.

The flavoring agents are left to macerate with a neutral alcohol base. Once maceration is completed, sugar is added to the solution and the product is left to age in casks or bottles.

Historically, amari were made in pharmacies and sold as medicinal tonics. The particular blend of herbs and roots were thought to have curative powers.

Today, amari are still used to aid in digestion, but they have their place behind the bar, rather than the medicine counter. There has been a recent trend among mixologists to use amari in a wide range of inventive cocktails, though Italians still prefer their after-dinner digestive neat.

There is flexibility within the category in the usage, and some of the lighter amari are taken as an aperitif. In the Nonino household, they serve their amaro to guests before dinner. They like it neat, with a slice of blood orange.

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Francesca & Chiara Nonino pose for fashion photographer Toni Thorimbert

From the department of “beauty does run in the family”…

Celebrated Italian fashion photographer Tony Thorimbert has captured Francesca and Chiara Nonino for the pages of Style magazine (Italy).

Click here for the entire photo shoot and article.

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