I believe sweet wines to be some of the most magical wines in the world. They are also some of the hardest wines to make. I think most people are deterred from sweet wines because they have terrible experiences with wines are just too sweet and unbalanced. There is nothing like drinking a fine dessert wine and when chosen properly; sweet wines can absolutely blow your mind away.
Here we have one of the finest Italian sweet wines the world has seen. Mostly known for his Amarones, Dal Forno’s passito will send shivers down your spine as well and this 2004 Vigna Sere will show you why. Dark, inky and penetrating , this is a wine you can simply stare at and smell all day long and never have to taste to enjoy, it’s that good. Brooding and lush and with the perfect vein of acidity keeping everything in balance, this has to go down as one of Italy’s best. Just see for yourself!
On to something a little different here, with a page taken out of the Bordeaux book. Muffato in Italian literally means “molded” so this Muffato is actually made from Botrytized grapes, just like in Sauternes. The same anomaly that happens in Sauternes also takes place in Umbria every so often. The Noble Rot sweeps in, takes over the grapes and transforms them into something magical. This can only happen in a couple of places in the entire world and Umbria happens to be one of those places. Lovers of Sauternes should look for something really unique!
Continuing my theme of traditionally made wines, I was happy when I had a recent opportunity to taste two wines from two magnificent and historical producers: a Barolo from Giuseppe Mascarello in Piemonte and a Brunello di Montalcino from Biondi-Santi. Both producers make beautiful wines that are highly expressive of both their varietal and their terroir.
The Mascarello Giuseppe e Figlio winery goes back 150 years. During this time it has always been tended by members of the Giuseppe Mascarello family. In fact, they were the first farmers to run the Manescotto estate in the village of La Morra for the Marchesa Giulia Colbert Falletti di Barolo, who is responsible for the Barolo we drink today. They have tended their own property since the late 1800s. Barolos from Guiseppe Mascarello are made in a traditional way, with long maceration periods and aging in Slovenian cask. The wine I tasted was the Barolo Monprivato 2010. Monprivato is a single-vineyard cru that is only made in outstanding vintages and is bottled with a numbered label. The vintages that do not meet the estate’s extremely high quality standard become part of the Barolo normale and Langhe Nebbiolo. The vineyard’s exposure along with its unique soil composition provide this Barolo with excellent body, a subtle bouquet, delicate tar, a lingering aftertaste, great elegance, and an ability to age while still maintaining youth and freshness.
Biondi-Santi is the estate that created Brunello. The late, great Franco Biondi-Santi was known for saying that he wanted to make wines that were never old enough to drink, and all the wines that I have tasted from this producer hold true to his statement. Biondi-Santi makes both an Annata, or normale bottling, and a Riserva bottling. Both are only made in good vintages and the Riserva only in great vintages. While the Annata derives from vines between the ages of ten and 15 years, the Riserva derives from older vines averaging 80 years of age. Grapes for both wines are sourced primarily from the Greppo vineyard, which has an altitude that ranges between 1,300-1,600 feet above sea level. Both the Annata and the Riserva undergo fermentation in traditional Slavonian oak for 18 days, followed by aging in large oak casks of 800 to 7,000 liters for a period of two to three years, and the Riserva is released six years after harvest.
These are both wines that require a bit of patience but will reward you with a beautiful drinking experience after some additional time in bottle.
This 2008 was a Bright ruby red color full of delicate and varied aromas of violets rose petal, lavender, tobacco, pepper, coffee bean and licorice with a background of dark fruits. The palate is elegant with tart juicy cherry acidity and silky tannins. It finishes with plum, spice and hints of earth. Drink 2020-2030.
This 2010 Monprivato is still a baby. The color is a deep bright garnet red, with a very aromatic nose of lavender, violets, rose, and sweet red cherries. The palate is fruity with a rich texture and silky elegant tannins that linger on a long finish. Drink 2020-2040.
The savvy wine collector is very much aware of the majestic wines that Claude Dugat makes and the princely sums they fetch. Here is something you might not know: in great vintages, the family of Claude Dugat , along with Claude himself, put together the fruit from their vineyards and have Claude make the wine under the Domaine la Gibryotte label. The wines of Domaine La Gibryotte are much in the style of Claude Dugat, rich, stylish, laser precise, complex, and finally, utterly delicious. These wines are made in minute quantities and from some of the finest parcels. We are one of perhaps 2 or 3 retailers in the entire United States who receive any. Previously these were sold in their entirety to a private collector, who has since passed on his allocation, allowing us to receive ours. Very, very fortunate for us.
It is nearly unheard of for a Bourgone to be made entirely of Gevrey fruit. Surely there are other villages mixed in. Well yes, this is often the case, but not in the case of La Gibryotte, whose robust Bourogne is full of character and an excellent intro to anyone who wants to understand all the “fuss” about Burgundy without spending a fortune (it is a steal). Drink Now through 2020
This 1er Cru is a 70/30 blend of the heralded vineyards Gevrey Lavaux St Jacques and Gevrey Craipillot. The bottling exhibits primarily dark fruit with just a hint of cherries, and muscular structure up front that rounds out as it caresses your palate. At $100 you are drinking a bottle that many others would sell for $50 more per bottle if they produced wine that good. It is a serious wine from a vintage that produced dense and detailed juice. Hold for a couple years and then enjoy it for a decade. Drink 2017 to 2027.
Wine is always about discovery and there are so many producers around the world that we don’t know about. If we learn something new in the world each day, we can easily say that we learn ten new things each day in the world of wine; there is just so much and it’s so, so good. In Italy there are over 3,000 different types of grapes for winemaking—3,000, that’s incredible! You can imagine the quantity of Italian wines, and there are many that have not yet made it to the US. We love to find great wines from lesser-known producers, and today I want to start highlighting lesser-known winemakers. Here is you a little taste of what you can expect from future discoveries.
Talenti is a rock star producer, and its Brunello at $55 per bottle is easily one of the best deals in Montalcino. In the past few decades Ricardo and his father have brought this winery out into the known world. When I first started at IWM nearly seven years ago, we carried Talenti, and it was always a tremendous success at any wine event. But no one knew who this producer was nor had anyone ever heard of him. It took a few short years for Talenti’s talents to come to light, and soon enough this estate gained recognition of Brunello lovers. Today’s selection is an invitation to get to know Talenti’s wines via the estate’s Rosso. At less than $25, this bottle is a small investment for one of the best everyday wines you might drink this fall.
Pianpolvere 2004 Soprano Barolo $129.99
This wine comes from a producer that surely no one knows, and if you do, bravo! Pianpolvere’s Barolos always stick in my mind as round and delicious; they’re a little more modern and so more approachable for those who are looking to drink their Barolos young. You may have heard of Rocche dei Manzoni—Pianpolvere comes from the same group and the quality is stunning. An unknown label and just $130, this 2004 wine will rock your Barolo world. It’s juicy, round, balanced and perfect with a steak dinner; you’ll be hard pressed to get much of this vintage because we are at our last few bottles. I’m a big fan.
People often say that the winemakers and chateaux in Bordeaux are very formal and businesslike. In Burgundy, though, the vignerons aren’t businessmen as much as they are farmers; they’re folks who love their land and share a deep connection with it, and who are much more comfortable working with a shovel than with a spreadsheet. Perhaps none personify these qualities more than Dominique Gallois, a stringent traditionalist who makes gorgeous wines of stunning depth, elegance, typicity, and purity using wholly non-interventionist techniques at his domaine in Gevrey-Chambertin.
I was lucky enough to spend a full day with Dominique back in February when he presented his wines to sommeliers in some of NYC’s top restaurants. Their response to his classically styled, understated wines was overwhelmingly positive. As today’s American wine market is oversaturated with hefty wines of great power and concentration, Dominique’s wines are a breath of fresh air for those of us who appreciate elegance, subtlety and a distinct sense of place.
When you speak to Dominique, he makes it immediately clear that his vines and their terroir that hold the primary responsibility for the outstanding quality of his wines. He told me that after harvest and pressing, the only thing he does to the juice is once daily batonnage, or a brief stirring of the juice in barrel to circulate the lees (his miming of this motion is hilarious, by the way). Everything else is left to nature, and after tasting Dominique’s wines, you’d have a very hard time arguing with his process.
Dominique’s sleek and aromatic Bourgogne Rouge is an absolute steal priced under $30, while his old-vine Gevrey-Chambertin Vieilles Vignes, Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Petite Cazetiers, and Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru are textbook representations of their illustrious terroirs, thrillingly complex yet subtle. However, his most sought-after wine is the prized Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Combe Aux Moins, a collector staple that is a fixture on several top NYC restaurant wine lists.
The 2013s are on the boat from France at this very moment and will be here very soon. When I tasted through Dominique’s 2013 barrel samples back in February, the wines were quite friendly and open-knit in their youth. I got a bevy of floral and herbal aromas on top of layers of gorgeous red fruits, with that telltale Gevrey sauvage persistent throughout the lineup. The Bourgogne Rouge should be enjoyed over the next 3-4 years; the Gevrey’s will be approachable when young; however, they will reward patience in the cellar and will continue to evolve over the next decade.
If you share my passion for beautiful, classically-styled Burgundy Pinot Noir, I urge you to try a few bottles and enjoy them knowing that you’re supporting a humble farmer and his family, and not an investment group’s bottom line.
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