The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

More Love for Valdicava 2011 Rosso di Montalcino

Posted on | April 16, 2014 | Written by Alex Passarello | No Comments

10172715_613630942038868_2603601698753564831_nAfter Vincenzo Abbruzzese took over the Valdicava estate in the late 1980’s, he quickly grew his Brunello into one of the most in-demand and collectible wines in all of Montalcino.  Abbruzzese has been a pioneer of sorts in Montalcino: he produced the first single-vineyard Brunello Riserva in all of Montalcino, his Madonna del Piano, which is now one of the most sought after wines in the region.  Hailing from a law-enforcement background, Abbruzzese applies his no-nonsense attitude to his estate. The winery property is all business, eschewing elaborate displays and placing little importance on meeting the needs of tourists.

An archetypal “Baby Brunello,” the Valdicava Rosso di Montalcino 2011 offers one of the best price-quality deals in all of Montalcino.  The fruit in 2011 did not meet Abbruzzese’s strict requirements, so he decided to take both the Brunello and Madonna del Piano grapes and include them in his Rosso bottling.   Abbruzzese undoubtedly sacrificed significant earnings by making this decision, and as a result we get to enjoy Brunello caliber juice at a fraction of the cost.  This wine has it all—bright red fruit, a nose of cinnamon-dusted fruit, a palate that takes these notes and adds earth and truffles, and a silky, velvety palate. At under $40, this bottle is a fantastic accompaniment to your Sunday meatballs—or any meal that cries out for Sangiovese Grosso.

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Expert Picks: Fantinel and Andre Clouet

Posted on | April 16, 2014 | Written by Robin Kelley OConnor | No Comments

robinThis is a great week to break out the bubbly. Between religious holidays and celebrations, there couldn’t be a better time to add some sparkle to spring. We love food-friendly, easy-going Italian sparklers. Instantly successful in bringing cheer to the soul, the Fantinel Brut Rosé NV is a wine for all occasions. It’s something Italians have known for more than fifty years—famous Friulian hotelier-restaurateur Mario Fantinel has been crafting food friendly wines since the 1960s.

But not all sparkling wines are uncomplicated, nor need they be. There are few Champagnes that can match the quality of Andre Clouet Cuvèe 1911. An IWM favorite, this Champagne is one of kind and one of the most unique and traditional wines being produced anywhere within the region. The grapes are sourced from a single (Grand Cru) vineyard in Bouzy, and the current release is a 100% Pinot Noir. A multi-vintage Champagne coming from the best of selected years, this Andre Clout bottling has been compared to the great Champagnes of Taittinger, Bollinger and Selosse.

Fantinel Brut Rosé NV  $19.80

This beautiful sparkling non-vintage Fantinel Brut Rosé is made from Pinot Nero and Chardonnay. It has a bright salmon color with streams of effervescence. On the nose is a lovely aroma of raspberries, cherries and strawberries with just the right floral notes. It enters the palate softly and seductiveltm with all the red berry fruits bursting in the mouth. Showing ust the right balance and texture with an appealing lively long finish, this sparkler makes appetizers, brunch or light fare sing.

Andre Clouet Cuvèe 1911 $99.99

The Andre Clouet Cuvèe 1911 has a stunningly beautiful deep golden yellow color with fine-streamed bubbles and an inviting mousse. Its nose offers the perfect perfumed bouquet of Provençal flowery freshness of wildflowers, lavender and violets. Elegant and finessed, its palate is round, complex and powerful with deep red fruit flavors with a lovely texture. It has a long continuous, precise finish with an exit that leaves the mouth dry and crisp with lingering fresh fruit tastes.

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Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Donnas Valle d’Aosta Rosso 2009

Posted on | April 15, 2014 | Written by David Bertot | No Comments

donnasrossoFor hundreds of years, the people living on the northern border of Italy have completely ignored political boundaries. In Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italian culture merges with Slovenian customs; in Tyrolean Alto Adige, it collides head-on with German traditions. The same occurs in the Alpine northwest, where Italy borders France and Switzerland in a lovely anthropologic mix.

Especially in this part of the world, wine finely intertwines with the culture. The cross pollination of winemaking techniques and centuries old cooking traditions makes these regional wines very unique. In the tiny town of Donnas in the valley of Aosta, Nebbiolo grows on steep slopes. These rocky pitches not only provide great drainage for the vines, but they also force the vines to work hard to produce the berries. The locals proudly refer to these wines as “mountain Barolo” and fittingly so with the Piemontese border only a few miles away. All this terroir and tradition yield an earthy, airy, alpine wine.

Last night, my wife and I enjoyed a bottle of the Donnas Valle d’Aosta Rosso 2009 (90% Nebbiolo with the remainder Freisa and Neyret). We paired it with an alpine cheese made from sheep’s milk, and we found it was an exercise in divine pairing. The sharpness of the cheese made the dusty tannins in the Nebbiolo in the wine stand up, even as the tannins were rounded out with pleasant light red fruit. Next we paired the wine with roasted chicken with herbed carrots and potatoes. The pairing was also delicious. Even towards the end of the bottle, the nose was still gorgeous with red fruit and roses. For $24.99 this wine demonstrates tremendous value any night of the week—and it crossed borders with aplomb.

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Expert Picks: Palari and…Palari!

Posted on | April 15, 2014 | Written by Garrett Kowalsky | No Comments

Garrett_1During a recent conversation with Sergio, he dropped a bit of a history lesson on me. They have been making wine in the hills of Messina since the 1300s using indigenous varieties, but at some time along the way, the fad of using international grapes came to the region. In 1976 Salvatore Geraci recognized this issue and found the mission to return the region to its former glory using indigenous grapes like Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera, Cappucio Tignolino, Acitana, Galatena and Calabrese. It takes a highly skilled winemaker who knows his land to be able to deftly blend these into balanced wines with great harmony. 

Below you will find two of Palari’s wonderful offerings: the flagship “Faro,” as well as its little brother, Rosso del Soprano, meant for everyday enjoyment. As the weather warms, I know many of us look to whites, but I assure you that reds like these should always be in your summer drinking arsenal.

Palari 2009 Rosso del Soprano $42.99

(Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera, Acitana, Jacché)

Intense ruby red, the ’09 Rosso del Soprano proffers lots of raspberries, strawberries—all kinds of berries—and jam on the nose. Lush on the palate with a hit of spiciness that gives the wine backbone, this wine will stand up against grilled and BBQ meats, as well as dishes with some spice of their own. Drink now and for the next years.

Palari 2007 Faro $80

(Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio, Nocera, Acitana, Jaccheé)

The Faro is almost always the same grapes as the Rosso; however, they are always a different and superior selection, in the eyes of Geraci. The color here is ruby as well, but it has a tendency to lean towards “brick.” There are similar fruit notes as the Rosso, but the wine also maintains an herbaceous quality and wraps everything around a strong mineral core. This ’07 has the structure and “legs” for long aging. You can drink it now, but it’ll get even better over the next decade.

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All Hail the Queen, Barbaresco

Posted on | April 14, 2014 | Written by IWM Staff | No Comments

Barbaresco_vineyard

A vineyard in Barbaresco

The third most collected wine of Italy,Barbaresco DOCG is commonly referred to as a junior Barolo: where Barolo is king, Barbaresco is queen. Certainly, it’s easy to invite such comparisons; Nebbiolo serves as the basis for both wines, and their two regions abut. Barbaresco DOCG occupies the townships of Barbaresco, Treiso, Neive, and a bit of Alba–and it’s this last village that separates Barbaresco DOCG from BaroloDOCG. Compared to the terroir of Barolo, that of Barbaresco is slightly cooler, slightly more elevated, slightly more in the path of ocean breezes, and slightly higher in concentration of limestone in the soil. But what a big difference a collection of slight differences can make, and this group of slender disparities create the unique Barbaresco.

While Barbaresco is a relatively new phenomenon on the wine scene, it has actually been around for centuries–Livy mentions it in his History of Rome. However, while wines called Barbaresco have popped up in favorable historical mentions from Livy’s day to the eighteenth century, they were entirely unlike the Barbaresco of today. These wines were slightly fizzy, somewhat sweet, and a far cry from the dry, plummy, aromatic Barbaresco first created by enologist Professor Domizio Cavazza in the late nineteenth century. In many ways, it is Cavazza whom we have to thank for modern Barbaresco. In this chilly region, Nebbiolo’s fermentation was often slowed or halted because of cold weather, leaving a lot of residual sugar; in an effort to find a way to completely ferment the wines, Cavazza discovered heat fermentation and created a completely dry Barbaresco.

Barbaresco still lurked in the shadows of its more famous relative until in the 1960’s Giovanni Gaja (father to Angelo) and Bruno Giacosa demonstrated Barbaresco’s full potential. However, Angelo Gaja’s single-vineyard efforts and precise viticultural and winemaking practices, beginning with the Sori San-Lorenzo in 1967, gave Barbaresco its push to gain attention and prestige. Gaja’s contributions to Barbaresco included reducing crop size, decreasing fermentation periods, utilizing temperature-controlled tanks, and aging wines in barrique; these practices pushed Barbaresco’s reputation for quality across Piemonte and beyond the Langhe Hills.

Less prolific than its neighbor, Barbaresco DOCG produces about half the amount of wine of Barolo. The area is broken up into three subzones—Barbaresco, Neive, and Treiso—and as in Barolo, the practice of single-vineyard bottlings is the calling card of these collectible wines. The soil of Barbaresco is fundamentally a calcareous marl of the Tortonian epoch (as opposed to the Helvetian soil found in the Barolo communes of Monforte and Serralunga), and it tends to yield softer, more approachably aromatic wines, similar to the Barolo communes of La Morra and Barolo. These points of difference owe, in part, to Barbaresco’s cooler climate and shorter ripening period, with harvesting in late September to late October. Barbaresco also has a lower alcohol level requirement (12.5% compared to Barolo’s 13%) and less stringent ageing requirements (Barbaresco ages for a minimum of two years with at least one year in barrel, while Barolo ages for at least three years with a minimum of two years in barrel). Like Barolo, the area under vine has increased as a result of a series of favorable vintages in the late ‘90s, bringing current acreage to 1,680.

Barbaresco ripens earlier than Barolo, and this timing makes a huge impact on the wine itself. While still tannic, Barbaresco spends less time macerating, and having had less contact with the grapes’ skins, it results in a lighter-colored, lighter-bodied wine intended to be drunk sooner than Barolo. Elegant yet lively, Barbaresco is a deeply aromatic, yet soft, fruity and spicy wine ready to drink five to ten years after bottling, though many finer vintages will age quite nicely.

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