In 2013 my brother Justin, who also works at IWM, and I took our parents on a journey across France. It was such an incredible experience that we vowed to do our best to continue with a new adventure on every odd numbered year. Well, it’s 2015 and we work at Italian Wine Merchants, so where do you think we went this time? That’s right: Italy.
Despite being a fraction of the size of the U.S., Italy has many incredibly diverse regions. In fact, you could easily argue that Italians are more loyal to their local traditions than they are to Italy as a whole. Our travels took us to four very distinct regions: Barolo (Piemonte), Cinque Terre (Liguria), Montalcino and Florence (both in Toscana) I hope to share a little bit of each of these wonderful places with you, and I’d like to start with Barolo. More specifically, I’d like to take you along on a visit with me to Poderi Aldo Conterno.
Since the 1960s Poderi Aldo Conterno (then “Il Favot”) has been making drop-dead gorgeous Barolos, as well as a selection of other wines. Originally, Aldo Conterno had inherited the Giacomo Conterno estate with his brother Giovanni, but he decided to strike out on his own. Sadly, Aldo passed in 2012, but his family carries on his memory by continuing to produce some of the finest wines in Italy. His son Giacomo was kind enough to open his doors to my family and me early on a Tuesday morning. Here is a little of what we saw—I’ll tell you more about the wines we drank in another post.
Aldo Entrance – I wasn’t quick enough with the camera, but a large gate opens slowly and welcomes you to Poderi Aldo Conterno.
Aldo Flowers – Spring flowers were in full bloom on the estate.
Aldo View – Perched on top of the hill, the estate has a grand view of a huge swath of Barolo.
Aldo House – A view from the outside before Giacomo guided us to the tasting room.
Conterno Wines – We sat for over two hours with Giacomo (son of Aldo) at the Aldo Conterno estate. He was generous with his time and his wines, trying us on all of the new releases.
Aldo Tunnel – After an intense tasting session we traveled through a few tunnels that brought us deeper into the hillside.
Aldo Speech – These tunnels first lead you to the large barrel rooms where the estate keeps its Barbera and Langhe wines. Giacomo is lower right providing more knowledge than you could ever hope to take in.
Conterno Barrels – Deep in the labyrinth that is Aldo Conterno’s cellars (I am not confident I could find my way out of there in less than an hour) is where the Barolo rests in much larger barrels made of Slavonian Oak.
Aldo Private Bottles – Along the journey you might even find the family’s private stash of bottles going back 50 years.
The thirst for good Burgundy appears to be on an endless trajectory and the clamor for white Burgundy seems not to be satiated. Supplies of choice selections are limited, and the combined effects of high global demand and low harvests have forced prices upward. I scoured our inventory and found two outstanding selections that are a perfect match for summer season and heat: Domaine J. A. Ferret’s Pouilly Fuissé Les Menetrières 2011 and Domaine des Héritiers Louis Jadot Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2010
One of the oldest estates still in business today, Maison J. A. Ferret manages some of the most historic, cherished vineyards in the heart of Fuissé. Managed by the Ferret family from its founding in 1840, this estate was purchased by Louis Jadot in 2008. It was the first domaine after World War II in Pouilly-Fuissé to push for greater control of quality to move from bulk wine production to bottling on the estate.
Maison Louis Jadot was founded in 1859, but the Jadot family started purchasing vineyards as early as 1826. Today the négociant house under the guidance of Pierre-Henry Gagey makes array of incredible wines numbering more than a 100 single cuvées and labels every year. And Jacques Lardière, the domaine’s recently retired winemaker, understood that terrior is what makes Burgundy and Louis Jadot exceptional. My selection for today is a wine from an extraordinary vintage of great nobility, and the 2010 bottling is classic Louis Jadot, and one of the finest white wines made in the world.
Domaine J.A. Ferret Pouilly Fuissé Les Ménétrières is a southeast-facing vineyard of 10-to-40-year-old vines that’s less than one hectare in size on the border of the village of Fuissé. The soil is composed of alluvial deposits, a mix of deep silt and clay with few stones, with limestone and limestone marl subsoil. Fermentation takes place in oak barriques, which 20% are new, and the wines are aged on its lees for a period of six months. Fuissé experienced a harmonious and balanced growing season that produced wines that can be enjoyed now and will age nicely. It’s a wine of great purity and finesse that displays power wrapped in elegance.
Located in the very heart of the appellation (next to Corton Pougets), this Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru vineyard is one of the oldest vineyards, owned by Louis Jadot since the nineteenth century. Originally, it was the only place to be allowed the Corton-Charlemagne appellation, which sits in the northern part of the Côte de Beaune split between the two villages of Aloxe-Corton and Pernand-Vergelesses. This ’10 masterpiece has a bright straw yellow color. The nose is massively complex and concentrated with aromas of Granny Smith apples, orchard fruits, ginger, melon, touches of orange blossom, and classic minerality of wet dusty stones. This wine has a massive, mineral-driven, powerful palate with citrusy lime notes, tropical fruits, lemongrass, spice, a fabulous refreshing acidity and an intense richness that coats the mouth. It has a long generous finish that seems to linger forever. This is clearly a wine for the ages with 25 years of life ahead of itself and a must-have for serious collectors of world-class Burgundy.
This Memorial Day weekend for me marked the beginning of being fashionably legal to wear go sock-less in shoes, wearomg mandatory sunscreen outside, and offering a stern reminder that summer is coming. This weekend I tasted (and will absolutely be revisiting) Per Linda 2013 Cerasuolo, a mono-varietal Montepulciano rosé from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. If you haven’t tried it already, I strongly suggest keeping a few cold bottles in the refrigerator to be ready for riding out the heat waves to come.
The Per Linda 2013 Cerasuolo punctually arrived a few weeks ago and is right on time for soft-shell crab and lobster season. I had the bottle chilled in my refrigerator in Montauk, NY, waiting for the opportune moment to introduce my guests to this $12.99 rosato wine from Adriatic Sea. It shows a translucent light pink sunset-blush, which is complemented by a densely floral nose of dew-laden roses and pleasing mineraly tones of smooth wet sea rocks. Immediately, I was psyched to discover a tang of ripe bosqe pear and smooth flavor of vine ripened blackberry with a gentle but persistent acidity and fruit forward flavor. The wine finished dry, melding elegance and beautiful soft flavors with its crisp cool acidity to refresh the palate and complement our beautiful summer seafood.
What makes the 2013 Per Linda Cerasuolo desirable to me is its approachability and flavor adaptability: I could also see this wonderful rosato wine pairing well with spicy sausages fresh off the grill or even pair with a light fresh summer fruit sorbet. What makes this wine even more desirable to me is that we also carry Per Linda’s counterparts, the 2014 Trebbiano d’Abruzzo and 2013 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, both just $12.99. Raise your glass and salute to summer being here!
Occasionally IWM features wines from some of the premier regions in France. Many of the world’s most famous grape varietals have origins in France, and the best of these wines are highly sought after and collected. Today’s selections feature a white and a red from the Rhône Valley. Divided into a North and a South, the two Rhône regions couldn’t be more different. The North specializes in one red grape, Syrah, while the South specializes in red blends—primarily Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, often referred to as “GSM” blends for short. For whites, the North features Marsanne and Roussanne blends, as well as Viognier as a mono-varietal or in blends. The South, again, features blends for its whites; in the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape blends, up to 8 whites can be mixed to craft Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc.
I’ve selected Domaine de Pegau and M. Chaputier, two producers who are giants in their respective regions. When talking about the northern Rhône, there is no bigger figure than Michel Chapoutier. Revered for his wines from the prestigious Hermitage appellation, Chapouiter has expanded into many of the other top regions in the northern Rhône and around the world. He has been a strong advocate for biodynamic viticulture and implements these practices at almost all of his estates. Domaine du Pegau is located in the southern Rhône in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This estate has been consistently crafting one of the top examples of Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, the Cuvée Réservée, and Pegau’s flagship Cuvee da Capo, made only in the best vintages, commands close to $500 a bottle on release! This estate has firmly implanted themselves among names like Château de Beaucastel, Clos des Papes, and the other top players in Châteauneuf.
The southern Rhône is a very warm region, so it makes sense that the Rhône Valley focuses on grapes that thrive in warmer climates. The southern Rhône had a slew of terrific vintages from 2000-2010, resulting in very age-worthy wines that will continue to develop well over the next decade. The tricky part in warm vintages is producing wines that maintain balance—it’s easy to end up with a wine that is over ripe or high in alcohol, but the 2012 Châteauneuf-du-Pape are classically styled and represent the achievement of that balance. The wines aren’t as “flashy” as 2009 or 2010, two great vintages, but instead they are well balanced wines that offer an early approachability. However, all of the components are present for longevity and the potential for development. The 2012 will please all enthusiasts of CDP.
Producing white wine in the Rhône Valley is even more difficult than producing reds. White wines require acidity, perhaps the most important structural component in whites due to significantly lower tannins, to give the wine a “backbone.” With the heat that exists in the Rhône Valley, it is difficult to produce acid levels that give white wines their vibrancy. However, what you get in a great Rhône white is a tremendous array of tropical fruit, floral, and honeyed notes with a voluptuous mouth-coating texture. A wine like Chapoutier’s Le Meal, which is 100% Marsanne, is incredibly long-lived but it’s a deviation for those who enjoy whites like Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling, which has notably more acidity. Nonetheless, this wine is absolutely delicious and is a great choice for cellaring.
Who isn’t excited about the official start of summer? Everyone at IWM is, and this week our blog showed it. We kicked off the week with a look at Amarone–what it is, how they make it and why it’s so very delicious. We ended the week with a quintessential summer recipe, David Bertot’s nostalgia-filled recipe for sautéed bay scallops with beurre blanc. In between, Julia Punj poured out a delicious $20 organic Sangiovese rosé and John Camacho Vidal made us the perfect summertime margarita!
Like Julia, Crystal Edgar was looking at the summer through rosé-colored glasses, picking a pair of blush wines from Domaine Roucas Toumba and Billecart-Salmon. Also like Julia, John Camacho Vidal was preoccupied with Sangiovese, but he picked a pair of full-throttle bottles from iconic producers Montevertine and Fontodi. Will Di Nunzio was inspired by unexpected pleasures–this time of an under $40 Brunello di Montalcino and a vintage Champagne.
Here’s to you and yours and a wonderful start to your magical summer!
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