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Meeting winemaker Antonio Cavallo from Zonin’s Masseria Altemura Estate

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Francesco Zonin

Does the man in the picture look familiar? If you read the glossy wine and food magazines, you have probably seen him in gorgeously photographed advertisements, perhaps thinking he was a handsome model yet in reality Francesco Zonin, president of his family's winery.

Alas, the handsome Francesco was not at a recent NYC dinner created to discuss new developments with the many Zonin wineries and meet charming winemaker Antonio Cavallo from Zonin's Masseria Altemura Estate.  However many other Zonin executives were present and it was a fabulous opportunity to learn more about Zonin and its many wineries.

... and of course, it was delightful to meet Antonio and ask him many Master of Wine student questions about his production methods.

I was sitting closest to Daniel DeSimone, the Regional Manager for Metro NJ-PA, who was a fountain of information about how Zonin developed its wineries and many brands.

The Zonin family has been making wine since 1821 and currently operates Italy's largest privately owned vineyard and winemaking complex. The house produces over 40 million bottles and exports its wines to over 90 countries. The company's headquarters are located in Northeast Italy, and owns estates in virtually every region.   The house produces a wide range of wines, many of them from varieties native to the regions in which the grapes are grown.

Francesco's father began to buy up wineries and land a few decades ago, modernizing them with state of the art equipment with the goal of exporting top quality Italian wine at an affordable price. Last October, the Zonin family celebrated the opening of the new winery,  which is located in the Salento Peninsula, Puglia in Italy - and we popped many of them open that night.

We started with the Fiano, a white wine with appealing freshness combined with a rich, mellow texture. It displays attractive sensations of peaches and apricots as well as of delicately scented flowers. I asked winemaker Antonio Cavallo about it - it rests on the lees for about three months which gives it a rich mouthfeel, but is vinified in stainless steel.

Next was the delicious Sasseo Primitivo, smoky cola and plum flavors with some spice and cooked fruit.  Soft tannins with crisp acidity and a tart finish, which we contrasted with the more refined, longer aged Primitivo di Manduria DOC,  rich, spicy, and incredibly delicious.

In addition to Antonio and Daniel (who goes by 'Dante' and speaks excellent Italian) I met Francesco Rabellino, Divison manager in New York, and Paolo Dal Gallo, Prestigious Account Manager in New York.

You can learn more at the Zonin web site  yet expect to read more about this exciting company not just bringing Italy's native grapes to America, but improving the quality in the vineyard as well as the winery.

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