Archive for the ‘Italy Wine Tours’ Category


Having survived hurricane Sandy, the madness of the holiday season and simply and gratefully, just a lot of work, I am finally able to post my second piece about my  experiences and thoughts following my attendance at Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre last October.

As mentioned in my previous blog-post, my main focus during Terra Madre was on the issue of GMOs which I will comment on again later, but one other conference caught my attention particularly given the proximity of the elections in the USA at the time and its sad aftermath-the defeat Prop. 37 in California.


The conference topic was “Le Etichette Narranti” loosely translated: “The Labels that Tell a Story” and what a story they tell!

According to Slow Food, the “story” of food products begins at their very origin-all of which encompass their provenance, their natural habitat, diversification of a species, cultivation by sustainable farming methods as well as energy consumption and more.

Preparing the beds for planting Piattella Canavesana di Cortereggio

Within those parameters and taking this concept many steps further, the Etichette Narranti initiative launched by Slow Food, supports small, family-run farms that cultivate products as diverse as the regions that spawned them, often recuperating indigenous varietals/breeds that were on the brink of extinction, and whose farmers have committed themselves to preserving and maintaining their natural habitats natural and evolution.

Piattella Canavesana di Cortereggio beds

Progressing along this concept then, when bringing their products to market, the farmers that adhere to this concept, indicate on the label or visibly post at their farms or estates, how their product came to being, specifying how it was produced, the energy consumed to produce it, and of course the true nutritional value.

Fontanafredda Bio-natural Project

Thus, just as a Slow Food is the opposite of fast food, Etichette Narranti is the total opposite of what the multinationals are fiercely fighting against-posting truthful labels on products-be they vegetables, breads, pastas or other prepared foods-that clearly indicate whether GMOs were used to produce them or as feed for the animals/fish that we purchase.


Indigenous grains from Puglia

Keep in mind for instance that indigenous varietals of beans contain far less carbohydrates and much more protein than the GMO produced counterparts; furthermore as also in the case of flour/breads, they are a better nutritional option for those who suffer from diabetes and other ailments that are currently reaching epidemic proportions throughout the world.

Piattella Canavesana di Cortereggio

In addition much more energy is required to produce the GMOs whereas the only thing that the indigenous seeds require is that the farmer save them from one harvest to the next-thus not having to depend on purchasing them from and be beholden to the multinationals and in doing so, simply employing his/her skills as well as knowledge about/and/respect for the environment while working with nature to bring his products to harvest and to the marketplace.

Alas, given the millions that the multinationals devoted to their cause, Prop. 37 was defeated but not all is lost in the battle for the right to know what we as consumers serve on our table. The future looks bright if schools, many with the support of their local Slow Food chapters throughout the world, run programs to encourage healthy eating by cultivating school gardens as championed amongst many others by Alice Waters-a very good friend and supporter of Slow Food and its founder Carlo Petrini.


In addition, programs such as University of New Hampshire’s Dual Major in EcoGastronomy ,whose Director, Dan Winans, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting during Terra Madre, train students to integrate sustainable  agriculture in whatever fields their future careers will take them. Dan was accompanying a delegation of such young and enthusiastic UNH students who while in Italy taking part in UNH study-abroad program in the Marches, attended Terra Madre as shown above, proudly posing with Carlo Petrini whom I too had thehonor of hearing speak and meet at a press conference.

Anna Maria & Carlo Petrini

Surely these students and others like them, will have an impact in the fight to protect sustainable farming methods and for the right to know what we ingest.

But in addition to these wonderful young people, there is light that is starting to shine at the end of the dark GMO and land grabbing tunnel. Main-stream journalists have been writing more about this subject such as NY Times Mark Bittman’s articles A Simple Fix for Farming of Oct. 21, 2012 and Fixing our Food Problem-Jan. 1, 2013; NY Times Michael Kugelman the Global Farmland Rush Feb. 5, 2013.

And in February 22 Wall Street Journal’s What’s Lurking in Your Pantry/Applied Food Chemistry by Michael Shermer’s, illustrates just how daunting of a task it is to make informed decisions about the food we eat. But I take issue with a comment made by author of Salt Sugar Fat, Michael Moss’s who states “”we, ultimately, have the power to make choices. After all, we decide what to buy. We decide how much to eat.” because the tragedy is that most consumers have no idea about what they are eating thanks to the intentionally confusing or incorrect labeling on many food products being sold in supermarkets in this country-not to mention the sale of fish that proclaims to be what it is not or horse meat in their hamburger patties and meat balls!

There may also be an ally in the fight against GMOs in Montana’s Senator Jon Tester, who, as a guest on the John Maher show on January 25, 2013, spoke about also being a farmer but stating that he and his wife choose to reject mass-market farming methods refusing to plant and harvest crops utilizing GMO seeds, thus operating their farm following strict sustainable farming methods.

But what about the US Government agencies and officials that are meant to protect our health and food supply? Having a White House garden is wonderfully symbolic but perhaps our First Lady Michelle Obama might want to consider furthering the cause of ensuring a nutritionally sound food supply which would certainly make “Obamacare” a lot more cost-effective in the long-run or perhaps our current Surgeon General, who, not unlike her predecessors, keeps a very conspicuous low profile on the subject as reported by  Mark Bittman in his Feb. 20 NYTimes  column: Our M.I.A. Surgeon General.

I realize that organic, GMO-free products, grass-fed meats, free-range-heritage poultry  or wild-caught fish may not be readily available or affordable for many consumers, but everyone should have the right to know what is contained in the food they ingest and be able to make informed decisions about how they choose to feed themselves and their families.

Alla salute e buon appetito!


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I had the great privilege of attending Slow Food’s Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto, held in Torino from Oct.25-29, 2012. For those who are not familiar with the organization and the world-wide convention that is held in that magnificent city bi-annually, please click here- Terra Madre

For me, going to Torino is going home, as that is the city where I was born, in an apartment that is literally steps away from Porta Palazzo, the largest open-air market in all of Europe  (my brother owns that apartment now!)

It’s no coincidence then that I grew up enjoying the best and freshest food available on a daily basis, usually prepared by my grandmother who was from Puglia and my mother, a great cook who has also adopted some Piedmontese culinary traditions along the way. Add to this mix my father’s Neapolitan origins and it’s no surprise then, that following a long career in the airline field, I would devote my attention and efforts to creating  food & wine travel experiences.

Growing up with wholesome food had an immense impact on me, even as my family eventually moved to the US, where 46 years ago genuine Italian food products and ingredients were not readily available.  In spite of that, our culinary traditions continued consistently throughout the years, traditions that I honored later in my life as I raised my own children.

Artichoke Stand at Porta Palazzo

Artichoke Stand at Porta Palazzo

Alas, this culinary tradition is not something that everyone has had the fortune to rely upon and as a result, particularly in the US, many people are left to make choices based on what’s being “advertised” as “healthy” and “wholesome”, leading many consumers to buy foods of dubious provenance and nutritional value.

Going back to Terra Madre, indeed food provenance, pedigree and clarity about our food supply, were the main focus of many conferences and workshops, during which the issue of “seeds”, particularly those that are genetically modified, took center stage and were the topics that I focused on during TM.

Now I am not a scientist and not a particularly militant person, but this issue has truly raised my antennas to what I see as a developing and disturbing trend toward obfuscating the truth about the food that is being packaged and sold to unsuspecting consumers the world over. Yes it’s our own individual responsibility to make sure we are informed and selective consumers, but how are we to do that if the FDA, the multinationals and their lobbyists are hell-bent in hiding the truth?

During TM, it was incredibly heartening to see the amount of efforts and devotion that local, small, artisanal and in many instances very young producers, who with the support of Slow Food have managed to bring back and keep alive ancient, sustainable farming practices and in the process, bring back to life ancient seeds that would have become extinct had it not for their collective efforts.

It would be impossible and not within my scope to report on every conference that dealt with this subject, and to be sure, I don’t feel that I have the right credentials to express in a clear and concise way the scientific research that so many gifted and eloquent speakers shared with the audience; however, below are some of the key points that we should all ponder and make our own determination about as to where our own efforts and opinions should lead each one of us.



Iranian Radija Razavi Speaking at Terra Madre Against GMOs

Indeed, perhaps farming practices that utilize GMOs were probably essential in some extreme cases where, had it not been for increased yields, many people, particularly in third-world countries, would have faced starvation. On that basis, the efforts of the scientists and the investments of the multinationals in developing these “super seeds” were and probably will still be of immeasurable benefit. However, as each crisis is being conquered and the long-term, ill effects that these genetically altered seeds have been known to inflict have been determined-i.e. depleting the environment’s resources, lower protein and higher carbohydrates content thus promoting obesity and diabetes for example- the time has now come to reverse these practices, to regain food sovereignty and demand our right to know as consumers and human beings what we choose to put on our tables.

Words from Terra Madre 2012

“The new battle for life,” is how Marcello Buiatti of the University of Florence described the current situation, in which seeds are patented and soils “doped” with chemicals, causing the decline of biodiversity and complete dependency on a handful of multinationals. “Seed monopoly is the new colonialism,” said Ahmad Taheri from Iran. “There are very severe laws against doping in sport,” he added, “so how com there are none when it comes to the soil where our food grows?”

  • Freedom of seeds
  • Food sovereignty is a gift from the creator and Mother Earth
  • Everything is a spiritual being including seeds, the beginning of all life and not the invention of the multi-nationals
  • Seeds are life and cannot be sold or brought
  • We must control seeds, whoever controls seeds controls food & freedom
  • One must speak of seeds if speaking of food
  • Seeds are key to food sovereignty, health, ecology
  • Seeds are a loan from the past generations and must be passed on to future generation
  • Genetically modified sees are barren and cannot propagate
  • Life is a maze of connections, so if we change one link, we destroy the chain
  • Life in biosphere lives due to diversity
  • No plant diversity=no human diversity=death
  • Allow plants to go to seed to allow plants to adapt to their environment
  • Hybrid sees cannot be replanted thus do not acquire the ability to adapt to their local environment as indigenous  seeds do and as a monoculture, could fall prey to diseases and be wiped out with no back up crop
  • Science is playing with life without knowing the consequences- to automate life is to kill it
  • 75% of seeds are controlled by 5 multinationals
  • There are laws against doping in sports i.e. Armstrong, but no laws against doping of seeds
  • Multinationals should be liable for doping of seeds and poisoning the environment
  • Laws in land (Italy) criminalize diversity by preventing the exchange of indigenous seeds amongst farmers.

Please see below useful links leading to more detailed information about the various conferences and speakers.

Also look out for my next blog post on clear and informative labeling and the defeat of Prop. 37 in California: Appalled by the defeat of Prop. 37 in California which was hoped would be the trend to be followed across the US, how can we as concerned and relatively informed consumers carry on with the task of making the FDA,  multinationals, lobbyists and our political leaders such as they are, respond to what is a consumer’s right, to know what is contained in the products that we purchase?


Critical Issues Discussed at Terra Madre: http://www.slowfood.com/international/slow-stories/153410/critical-issues-discussed-at-the-salone-del-gusto-and-terra-madre/q=26F72F

Alice Waters: http://www.slowfood.com/international/food-for-thought/focus/153104/the-grassroots-revolution/q=26B487

Rachel Hennessy-Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelhennessey/2012/11/03/gmo-food-debate-in-the-national-spotlight/

Standing up for Indigenous Food Systems: http://www.slowfood.com/international/food-for-thought/focus/153105/standing-up-for-indigenous-food-systems/q=F56B48

That’s a Wrap: Overview of conferences and articles from Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto 2012

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Eccomi finalmente*, begging forgiveness for this long hiatus between postings.

Over the last spring and summer I had planned to travel to Piemonte in April and May but thanks to the volcano eruption in Iceland last April that prevented 10 out of a group of 14 from reaching Piemonte, I actually had to travel there again last June and immediately following off to amazing Friuli Venezia Giulia with another group.

Each trip was absolutely perfect and accompanied by my terrific travel companions, I was grateful for the opportunity to visit top estates such as  Angelo Gaja, Bartolo Mascarello, Bruno Giacosa, Aldo Conterno, Paolo Scavino, Giacomo Conterno, La Spinetta, Luciano Sandrone and Oddero in Piemonte; Radikon, Gravner, Jermann, and Fantinel in Friuli and finally Movia in Slovenia. In the coming weeks I will share stories and photos from these trips that I hope will be of interest but for now, I must continue with our Amazing Women of Piemonte series.

Our next featured woman winemaker is Maria Teresa Mascarello, who since her father’s demise has had to fill some pretty  big shoes in becoming the winemaker at Bartolo Mascarello.

But regardless of her shoe size, Maria Teresa is becoming a giant in her own right!

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I have been very patient over the last year or so, something that is not very easy for me to do, wondering when the right time might be to launch the Shop Wine and Dine Wine Travels blog.

Certainly our tours featuring some of the top wine makers in Italy, indeed the world, have given us plenty of material to draw upon, but something has held me back until now.

I didn’t want this to be just another blog, but as in our tours, I wanted to be able to offer a glimpse into Shop Wine and Dine’s unique perspective on what a wine tour to Italy should offer, along of course with some useful information and interesting anecdotes that visits to these winemakers “immancabilmente”* provide.

And so I decided that “Divinale-Women of Wine Week” to be held at City Winery from March 8-13, in honor of Women’s History Month, was going to be our debut into the world of blogs!

Apart from being present at the Grand Tasting on Saturday March 13 from 1-5PM, Shop Wine and Dine will be raffling off a three night package for two featuring the 5* Relais Monforte, dinner for two with wines at a Michelin 1* restaurant and a visit at a top winery in the Langhe! So if you have been dreaming of a wine tour to Piemonte, this may be the time to make your dreams come true!

But how else could we have honored Women’s History Month? Well, in true Shop Wine and Dine’s fashion we created an exceptional tour-Amazing Women of Piemonte, an Italy wine tour like no other that will feature only women winemakers and chefs, some of the best of the region, also encompassing the International Alba Truffle Fair!

In the coming weeks we will be featuring stories about these “Amazing Women of Piemonte” sharing some insights about their lives, dreams and visions for the future. We will also share some special recipes that our women chefs have generously shared with us so please look for our next posting for further details.

Lastly, Shop Wine and Dine’s mission is also about sharing insight and knowledge about Italy and Italians. As an Italian-born living in this country for many years but still thankfully deeply steeped in the Italian culture, when I speak or write I have a habit, albeit annoying even to me at times, of switching back and forth between the two languages. This happens mostly because in Italian there are certain words that defy translation as they convey a very specific thought or sentiment. I have therefore thought that rather than fighting this impulse, when this happens, I would simply use the Italian words and share them with you as my “Italian Words of the Day” with the albeit poor English translation below.

*Allora, I apologize if this initial posting is a bit longer than most might like but I certainly hope you will enjoy hearing from us with the next posting featuring one of the “Amazing Women of Piemonte”

*Un caro saluto,
Anna Maria

*Italian Words of the Day:
Immancabilmente: without fail
Allora: well then….
Un caro saluto: fond greetings (this is one of those poor English translations!)

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