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Emilio Bulfon, Tre Venezie IGT (Italy) Piculit Neri 2019 ($21, Terroir Imports)
 Emilio Bulfon is a hero to those of us who appreciate the diversity and distinction among indigenous grape varieties.  In 1974, Bulfon set out to rescue native Friulian grape varieties that were in danger of extinction as demand for Merlot, Pinot Grigio and other international varieties was growing.  Bulfon has successfully nurtured vineyards of varieties like Cividin, Cjanorie, Sciaglin and Piculit Neri.  This Piculit Neri might express the soul of Friulian red wine.  Grown in the western Friuli foothills, it offers a delicious combination of floral, fruit and spice nuances.  Pure cherry and raspberry fruits are enlivened by hints of blackberry, fresh roses and allspice.  This refined and sleek style is underlain by subtleties of wild herbs and a smoky intensity.  Enjoy it with flavorful Mediterranean recipes or most anything off the grill.     
92 Wayne Belding


Posted by Michael Franz on February 7, 2021 at 3:30 PM

Robert Whitley, 1950 - 2021

We are saddened to report that Robert Whitley, publisher of Wine Review Online, passed away on February 3 after a brief bout with cancer.  Robert was also the author of “Wine Talk,” a column syndicated nationally by the Creators Syndicate, a monthly contributor to the Reuters “Vine Talk” column, and director of four major international wine competitions: San Diego International Wine and Spirits Challenge, Critics Challenge, Sommelier Challenge and Winemaker Challenge.

Robert became a friend to countless journalists, members of the wine trade, competition judges and volunteers over the years.  All are invited to send brief reminiscences and appreciations to Michael Franz at Michael@franzwine.com.  We compiled many of these and published them here last week, and the "Appreciation" article will remain on the WRO "Home" page this week and be archived and also available via a link at Robert's profile on the WRO "About Us" page.

Robert's memory will live on through the wine competitions and also here on Wine Review Online.

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
The Joys of Exploring Italian Wines
Michael Apstein

One of the many things I adore about Italian wine is its seemingly limitless depth. You can always uncover a wine area or category unbeknownst to you, even if it's been known to the Italians themselves for decades. Take, for example, Albana Romagna. It may be a discovery for me and other Americans, but the Italians have known the potential of the grape grown in this area for decades. Comparably obscure to most of us is Refosco dal Peduncolo, a red variety usually showing hard-edged tannins, according to Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson et al., but a grape that a talented producer has turned into a delightful red wine suitable for chilling. That same producer also makes a dynamite Pinot Grigio (not exactly an obscure grape), that retails for about $12. And of course, I'd be remiss if I omitted the new category of Prosecco Rosé, a brilliant marketing maneuver combining two of the hottest selling categories in wine today. At least that's what I thought until I explored the subject a little deeper.
Appreciation: Robert Whitley, 1950 - 2021
Michael Franz

As many readers of Wine Review Online are aware from the sad notice I posted in this web site's blog space 10 days ago, we lost Robert Whitley to a very aggressive cancer on February 3. Robert was WRO's Publisher (among many other things, as you'll see below), having partnered with me and Michael Apstein to establish and launch the site in 2005. We were confident that many tributes to Robert and recollections of him would be sent to us before long, and our confidence was well placed. Following a relatively brief account of Robert's life, we will share many of them here. This column is being published under my name simply because I compiled it, but the deeper truth is that Robert effectively wrote it himself--through his accomplishments and by etching his memory into the hearts and minds of those whose reminiscences appear below.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Mushrooms Bourguignon

Boeuf Bourguignon is a wonderful dish to eat in any season although most people seem to find it an especially gratifying winter dish to be savored…like, say, right now. I've recently been enjoying a riff on the traditional BB by substituting mushrooms for the beef. I know, I know, this seems like gourmet sacrilege but trust me, it's a delicious, nutritious, simple-to-make variation on the beloved classic. While I sometimes include bacon and even beef stock in this recipe (just to 'beef things up,' so to speak), in this particular instance I wanted to keep the basic flavors simple and uncluttered. I did include a few button mushrooms but mostly I used sliced shitakes, whose firm texture is almost beefy. These mushrooms can be simmered for a long time without disintegrating or getting mushy as they absorb the flavors of wine and seasonings. For a little extra 'oomph' you could certainly add a mirepoix (diced carrots, onions and celery), or Holy Trinity (similar to Mirepoix but with bell pepper instead of carrots), or soffrito (a more freewheeling blend of all the above ingredients plus, perhaps, garlic, parsley and or cilantro).
On My Table
The Evolution of Chianti Classico Grand Selezione
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

When the Chianti Classico Consorzio introduced the designation Chianti Classico Gran Selezione in 2013, the move was seen as an effort to create a higher quality tier among the wines of the region. Previously, the wines fell into either the basic Chianti Classico category or that of Chianti Classico Riserva, differentiated by slightly more than two years of additional aging. The Gran Selezione wines are required to come from a single vineyard or estate owned by the producer and aged a minimum of 30 months - six months more than Riserva - before release. The new category was controversial. Reactions involved confusion at best, and some critics expressed disapproval for what seemed to be an all too obvious marketing scheme. But as the term began appearing on wine labels, usually on a producer's finest and most expensive Chianti Classico, it gained traction as a quality indication.