Growing up in Italy, I learned there are a number of wine experiences that are just part of daily life. Having an aperitivo before dinner with a good Prosecco, sipping a good wine that complements the dishes at dinner, and celebrating a special occasion with a nice spumante. It’s just the way of things there—it’s part of the culture. In my 25 years of living La Dolce Vita, I thought I had tried most of the good spumante the market had to offer. I was incorrect.
Fantinel Brut Rosé is one of those eye-opening sparklers. I tried this under $20 bottle recently at one of our Saturday tastings and decided to bring a bottle home to share with my wife. After all, any reason is a good reason to celebrate life with a good wine. As I expected, my wife showed the same wide-eyed surprised look on her face as I did when I first tried it. This Brut Rosé has an unusual shade of pink, and when you look at it, you don’t expect it to be both bright and dry. Hints of berries follow the initial burst of freshness and acidity, and its rich, crisp finish makes it suitable for pairing with many different dishes.
This wine has been regularly stocked in our fridge ever since I shared that first bottle with my wife—chilled and ready to pop open at any time, and for any occasion. If you haven’t tried this gem from Friuli yet, you owe it to yourself do so at your earliest. It’s a true go-to bottle that is sure to impress, and possibly even surprise.
New York City just experienced an exhilarating week of Burgundy. The week began with various importers hosting Burgundy tastings for the press and trade, and one of the highlights was a 2013 barrel tasting of top estates covering the entire region from Chablis to Beaujolais and everything in between. The action shifted to La Paulée de New York, which had a six-day program of non-stop tastings, lunches, dinners, even a theatrical play, culminating with a great bacchanals. To keep the Burgundian spirit alive, I have chosen two outstanding wines that represent both Burgundy’s approachability and extreme rareness. Domaine Chavy Chouet’s St Aubin Murgers des Dents de Chiens 2013 is a Chardonnay that flies under the radar at a fabulous price and with excellent quality. In fact, the St Aubin Murgers des Dents de Chiens is known as Puligny-Montrachet’s “little brother,” because its vineyards are contiguous to Puligny to the west. My other pick comes from the inimitable Emmanuel Rouget, and I’ve chosen his Echezeaux 2011. Nephew of Burgundy’s most legendary winemaker of the 20th century, Henri Jayer, Emmanuel’s wines represent some of the most revered wines in Burgundy, carrying on his uncle’s legacy.
This wine is one of the very good buys in Burgundy. The father-and-son team of Hubert and Romaric Chavy has 30 acres of vineyards covering 70 parcels and 15 appellations within their domaine. In 2011 Romaaric took over full winegrowing and winemaking responsibilities, and under the watchful eye of his father, Romaric has taken the quality of the domaine to new heights. This ’13 St-Aubin has a bright straw yellow color with hints of green. Its nose is aromatic with floral notes and fruits scents of apples, pears, and citrus. On the palate, it is fresh and vibrant with great flavor elements, all balanced by bright fruits with a zing of fresh acidity, and on the finish the minerality comes through with a long extended exit.
Emmanuel Rouget Echezeaux 2011 $549.00
Emmanuel Rouget, carrying on the traditions of Uncle Henri Jayer, simply put made a superb Echezeaux in 2011. Faithful to the techniques of his uncle, Emmanuel works everything by hand on his miniscule 7.5 acres. The Echezeaux 2011 comes from extremely low yields of well-tended vines, with even the plowing of the vines done by hand. After a pre-fermentation cold maceration, this Echezaux aged in new oak. The color is a beautifully bright ruby red. This wine’s aromatics are simply ethereal, featuring red and dark fruits, with a touch of minerality. Its palate explodes with flavor, intensity, concentration and complexity. It has a very silky texture, and the deep red fruit flavors penetrate deep into the palate with well-structured tannins. This is a wine of great breed, finesse, elegance and class—a serious wine for serious collectors.
Bordering Austria and Slovenia in the northeastern region of Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia’s culture offers an intriguing amalgam of cultural influences. Even the region’s name shows that cultural melange. “Friuli” recognizes the ancient Friulani who first settled the area, while “Venezia” refers to the people of the Venetian Republic. Like its name, Friuli-Venezia’s wine culture reflects its heritage, blending indigenous and international grapes, modern and ancient methods, and producing a dizzying array wines ranged along a wide stylistic spectrum.
Friuli is disposed to be a white varietal specialist: Many of its wine zones receive the benefit of a propitious interaction between mountain air and warm sea currents, and this moderate environment lets grapes realize rich fruit flavors while retaining their incisive acidity. The ideal terroir is considered to be the provenance of the zone’s premier regions, Collio and Colli Orientali, which feature soils comprised of limestone, marl, and sandstone, and vineyards situated at a high elevation.
The Friulian standard-bearer wine is a crisp, clean white, and while imitated throughout Italy, no other region possesses the breadth of Friuli’s white varietal canon, composed of both indigenous and international varietals. The principal members of the former category include Tocai Friulano, Malvasia Istriana, Ribolla Gialla, and Picolit, while the latter is headlined by Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Grigio.
While Friuli-Venezia Giulia is understandably known best for its white grapes, the region also possesses a healthy relationship with red varietals. Friulia has enjoyed particular success with the Bordeaux varietals, but its indigenous varietals—Refosco, Pignolo, and Schioppettino—are on the rise in the wine world’s radar. While many regard Refosco as the leader of the trio, all three have been making their way back into the Friulian landscape. Schioppettino, Ribolla Gialla’s black counterpart, may be translated into a powerful wine of black fruit and spice that reflects kinship with a Syrah from the Rhône.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia has a long, storied history of winemaking, one that encompasses modern wine protocol, but also one that has increasingly been hearkening back to winemaking’s roots. None lead the oxymoronic charge of “new” old winemaking more successfully than Josko Gravner, whose work with anfora has for all intents and purposes ignited a wine movement. Starting about fifteen years ago, Gravner began fermenting his wine in anfora, large clay pots buried in the ground, leaving his white grapes in extended contact with their skins. His method has caught on, and in part because of Gravner, Friuli is one of the pivotal centers of natural winemaking in Italy. Like Gravner, producers such as Marjan Simcic, Stanko Radikon, Miani’s Enzo Pontoni, Movia’s Ales Kristancic and others work to create unique interpretations of the region’s grapes using natural, often biodynamic methods.
While Friuli-Venezia Giulia might not have the name power of Toscana or Piemonte, there’s no doubt that this is a powerhouse of a winemaking region—especially when you’re talking about Italian whites. Of course, that’s no reason to sleep on the reds! Friuli is all about diversity, much of it undiscovered and most of it delicious.
Do you enjoy rich, full-bodied, red wine with explosive flavors and bold fruit? Amarone was made for you. Amarone della Valpolicella comes from Valpolicella, located in the Veneto in northeast Italy, and it’s unique to this region. That’s because Amarone is made with grapes indigenous to Valpolicella and with a technique that isn’t often utilized in making other wines. The best Amarones are decadent wines that have a staggering presence on the palate with equally monumental complexity. Notes of dark plums, raisins, chocolate, mocha, and mesquite are found in exceptional examples.
The blend is typically three main varietals – Corvina, Rodinella, Molinara – although certain producers may choose to exclude one and include others. The method used to produce the wine is called the appassimento technique, which involves air-drying the grapes before they are pressed. Removing water from the grapes yields a concentrated juice that results in a wine that is big, bold, and higher in alcohol. It’s the sugar in grape juice that gets converted into alcohol during fermentation, and since the juice contains less water and more concentrated sugars, you get bigger alcohol percentages. Don’t worry, though, a well-made Amarone doesn’t show that alcohol because it’s balanced by its depth of flavor and its structure. The downside, though, is that the appassimento technique decreases the volume of juice, so Amarone is costly—but delicious.
People who taste Amarone get the perception of “sweetness” on the palate. Amarone is dry, but because of its concentration of fruit, we can experience it as sweet. The dessert wine version of an Amarone is called Recioto della Valpolicella, and it actually gave birth to Amarone. Recioto is made the same way, but fermentation is allowed to finish, resulting in residual sugar that is left behind in the wine. Amarone was an accident and was discovered when a winemaker let a batch of Recioto ferment until completion. Voila!
Today, Amarone producers are beginning to bottle single-vineyard expressions, or “crus,” that show a distinct character, differentiating it from other vineyards or from blends. My selections today are from two estates that are multi-generational, family-owned, and artisanal producers of Amarone, Begali and Nicolis. These are not the big names that are readily available at your local wine shop; these estates were selected by Sergio and brought to you because they’re worth knowing, and I’ve chosen two cru bottlings for you today.
Begali is currently led by the son of founder Giordano Begali, Lorenzo, and his wife, Adriana. They bottle a line-up of wines including a Valpolicella, Amarone, this single-vineyard Amarone, and a Recioto. There are only 200 cases of this particular bottling made, and it’s a beauty. It is big, but at the same time elegant, displaying notes of dried fruits, chocolate, and cloves.
Located in Valpolicella’s classico district, the Nicolis estate is 87 acres of vineyard cultivated under the watch of multiple generations, and the land itself has an interesting history. During groundwork on the Ambrosan vineyard, workers discovered the foundations of an ancient Roman villa! The winery is currently run by Angelo Nicolis and his wife Natalia; yheir three sons, all trained in enology, work closely together as well. Together they make an Amarone with a distinct, chiseled style. This 2006 single-vineyard has notes of dark plums, chocolate, mocha, mesquite, and spice in an elegant frame.
Over the past six years we have slowly developed once of the strongest offerings of quality Burgundy in the market, and our collection covers the spectrum in both price points and collectability. Although many people falsely believe that you have to spend “big bucks” to get a good bottle of Burgundy, a fantastic reasonably priced bottle can be found when you find the right domaine in any one of number of lesser known villages.
The two wines today come from two of my very favorite estates–Bachey-Legros and, for the first time ever at IWM, Domaine Francois Raquillet.
Over the past four vintages the name Bachey-Legros has garnered great praise from critics as well as client attention. Although Bachey-Legros is primarily known for their blockbuster whites, the cognoscenti have also realized that their reds are sublime. I recently opened a bottle of their 2012 Santenay Clos Rousseau 1er Cru with the IWM staff, and I have to say that I have never heard more accolades from such a wide audience so quickly. Loaded with notes of blackberry, deep cherry, wild mineral notes, and wonderful sauvage nuances, the rich and powerful Santenay glides across the palate with the ripe, refined tannins from its wonderful old vine fruit. This wine is at once absolutely classic in style and powerful and rich, due to its very old vines—some are older than 135 years in age. This is a must-have wine for any Burgundy lover ,and although delicious now this will age easily for another decade to
When most think of Burgundy, what comes to mind is the 24-mile stretch called the Cote d’Or. However, there are five distinct regions in Burgundy, and just to the south of the Cote d’Or lies one of he most widely praised, the Côte Chalonnaise, which holds the village of Mercurey. With its 32 1er Crus, no other village in the Côte Chalonnaise has even close to the quantity of high quality vineyards as Mercurey. Among the growers I have followed for well over a decade is Francois Raquillet. With his spare-no-expense approach and super-dense plantings, as well vines that average more than 60 years across all the vineyards, Raquillet’s wines are the benchmark for this Village and they have only been imported for the first time a year ago! Raquillet’s Mercurey Les Veleys 1er Cru 2013 is a ripe, highly complex effort. With deep dark flavors of blackberries, hints of currants, with loads of telltale Mercurey spice and mineral and the slight earthy notes that make Mercurey clearly distinct. As with all Raquillet wines, the tannins are ultra-refined and make this wine a pleasure to enjoy now or over the next 10-15 years plus. With only 240 cases made of the beauty, we are excited to be able to offer not only Raquillet for the first time but also to offer a bottling from one of his most prized vineyards. This is one wine and appellation that you cannot miss.
keep looking »