There are at least 12 buildings like this one – the Emilia-Romagna pavilion. Some kind of wheeled vehicle might be a good idea…

Learning to Love VinItaly

Share

We’re kind of learning to love VinItaly. Yes, it’s crowded, sometimes with inebriated sightseers who make it extra-hard to navigate. Yes, the food sucks, but that’s hardly why you go. True, the bathrooms are a topic to avoid – literally, if possible. But it’s exciting to be there. We taste all day long, from the opening gun at 9:30, until close at 6:30. Along the way we see some crazy stuff! The extravagance of some of the stands cannot be believed – photos don’t really do them justice, and please believe me when I say that the photos don’t show how crowded it feels. But we mostly enjoy the hunt, and our trips there have gradually become more productive as we learn how best to find some needles in a gigantic haystack. In fact we made some really exciting discoveries this year, and we are already looking forward to presenting the wines as they arrive over the coming months. It’s also great fun to see our friends there, to catch up with their news and taste the new vintage(s), and to have our previous impressions confirmed. After the photos, you can see some of the fruits of last year’s trip. Jamie Wolff & John Rankin

It gets so crowded with people gumming-up the aisles that it can really be a pain just to get from one place to another – reminiscent of walking on 5th Ave in midtown when you’re late to an appointment.

 

The Prime Minister of Italy came to visit. It was impossible to actually see him. Very exciting!

 

Why not build a castle? Some of the 2-level stands even have kitchens upstairs.

 

The boxes are labelled 'Europanino Food Service'. The food is better at the airport and at Italian highway rest-stops.

 

There’s a giant pavilion that’s just food producers. You could make a meal from a bite at a time, if you didn’t have to taste wine all day.

 

It gets very crowded, although it’s hard to tell in the photos. Here you see a section of very modest ‘stands’, which are less formal than the fancy ones. The exhibitors have to deal with a wide range of behavior from the public, including, not surprisingly, unwanted flirtation.

 

Chiaretto, a rose from Lago di Garda, takes lessons from the cosmetics industry.

 

Some exhibitors make up for their modest stands by creating other dramatic effects.

 

A high-style stand for a Sicilian producer. This picture was taken first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive.

 

Sconces!

 

A pretty fancy stand, with stone walls, video screens, and special display cases that make you say, “I really must try those wines!”.

 

Some translations are more successful than others.

 

“We make every glass a pleasing emotion”.

 

 

Madonna delle Grazie 2007 Aglianico del Vulture Drogone d'Altavilla

Drogone comes from a small parcel of vines planted in 1964. The wine is aged for two years in older, large tonneau of French oak, and then for years in bottle — the 2007 is the current release. A wine of great depth and considerable density, it shares the elegance and finesse of all Madonna delle Grazie wines. It's very cool to taste the highest quality Aglianico that has some age; we're happy that it's still available at such a fair price. John Rankin and Jamie Wolff

  • red
  • 9 in stock
  • $38.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Rovero Barolo Chinato 500ml

Chinato – an aromatized and fortified wine usually based on Barolo – has created quite a stir around the store. We’ve always loved Cappellano’s, and tried a few others here and there, but an offer of many vintage Chinatos illuminated the fact that these spirits show quite well when cellared like their mother-wine Barolo. The intense, bitter, quinine bark flavors mellow and become a more harmonious part of the drink. Also, like world class dessert wines, the sugar becomes less “sweet” tasting and shows more rich-bodied character. Which brings us to Rovero’s delicious Barolo Chinato. For under $35 a bottle, I’d highly recommend stashing a couple of these away for a later after-dinner surprise. It may not be the Technicolor, herbal rollercoaster that Cappellano is, but it’s a very fine stand-in at an incredible price. John Rankin

  • 13 in stock
  • no discount
  • $36.99

Bianco, Marco 2011 Moscato d'Asti "Crivella"

Crivella is made with fruit from Bianco’s oldest vines, including some planted in the mid 1800s by Riccardo’s great-great-something grandfather; such old vines are extremely rare, and while they produce very little fruit, it’s impossible for Riccardo to even think about replacing them. At a tasting in the shop a customer said, “Like Sauternes with bubbles!” which was a lovely way to describe the wine and its rich and unctuous character. made lively with fizz. While there’s no botrytis, Crivella is much more complex and detailed than all but the very best Sauternes. I’ve certainly never tasted anything like it — a stunning wine. Jamie Wolff

Moscato d'Asti is usually a fairly light and simple affair, but this bottling has gravitas to stand up to the most complex, aged cheeses. If an old Stilton and Port sounds a bit much, try this invigorating Moscato for a bit of a lighter approach. John Rankin

  • white sparkling off-dry
  • 2 in stock
  • no discount
  • $44.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur
Sorry, the Following have Already Sold

Giol 2013 Prosecco Sur Lie (organic, no so2)

We are crazy for the amazing Proseccos from Casa Coste Piane and Costadilà — wines made by the very old school method of a second fermentation in the bottle. Conventional Prosecco is made by adding CO2 gas in a pressurized tank. The results can be very tasty, but we do love the good fermented-in-the-bottle versions, since the process yields a finer bubble, and a lot more complexity and flavor. Thus we are delighted with the Giol Prosecco —  the price would be enough to make us happy. It’s a bit fresher and a bit lighter than the two mentioned above, but this isn’t a bad thing at all — it’s nice to have an easy going wine that is also pretty serious. Jamie Wolff

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $14.99

  • Organic
  • No Sulfur

Giol 2013 Pinot Grigio IGT Marca Trevigiana

A couple of years ago we became totally dissatisfied with the Pinot Grigios available to us. The search for Italy’s famous white began with a couple of parameters: the wine should be made with organic grapes, it had to be crisp and fresh, and priced reasonably. Unfortunately, this proved to be more difficult than we bargained. But after crossing a sea of boring, industrial-tasting plonk, we found the lively, crisp wines produced at Giol. The wines are vibrant and delicious, the vineyard work organic, and in the cellar there’s plenty of experimentation with low and no sulfur-added wines. Let us save you the trouble of tasting what else is out there, and enjoy our new favorite. John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $13.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Madonna delle Grazie 2013 Aglianico del Vulture Bianco Leuconoe

We love the savory, spicy Aglianicos from Vulture’s volcanic soils, but we had never tried one vinified white. That is exactly what Paulo from the winery Madonna delle Grazie did for their fantastic, mineral-infused Leuconoe. I asked the young wine maker why he chose to make such an uncommon style of wine, and he explained that he wanted a refreshing wine for fish dishes or as an aperitif, but didn’t like the floral character of Muscat, the region’s usual white wine grape. Rather than plant Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc – the solution which many of his neighbors employ – he made a very light pressing of the fierce Aglianico grape. The wine tastes of anise, wild strawberry, and a mouthful of volcanic minerality – perfect for summer pastas! John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $14.99

  • Organic

Madonna delle Grazie 2013 IGT Basilicata Sagaris Rosato

If Southern France’s pale, salmon-toned wines have got you in a rut, try some of Southern Italy’s bold, light-crimson rosatos. Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria all make delightful, pink wines, but they are far less appreciated stateside compared to the French equivalent. Often customers mistake the darker color for more fruit flavors or – gasp – sweetness, but the reality is that in southern Italy the skin macerations are a bit longer, and the robust grape varieties give more pigment to the wines. I suspect that the local population is more than happy to drink them at home, as the refreshing and bold flavors work perfectly with the sunny summers of the Italian south. Madonna delle Grazie’s rosato is full of cranberry fruit and a slightly smoky character. John Rankin

 

 

  • Out of Stock
  • rosé
  • 0 in stock
  • $13.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Madonna delle Grazie 2009 Aglianico del Vulture Messer Oto

Making Aglianico in a fresh, food-friendly style is not easy; in so many wines ripeness takes over, resulting in a charmless,“hot” wine that tastes of alcohol and roasted fruit. Messer Oto* avoids these pitfalls and showcases Aglianico's ability to carry lifted flavors of brambly fruit and smokey minerals. This is very dry but with some rich black fruit, ripe tannins, and plenty of peppery nuance and complexity; bright acid provides balance and makes this a very versatile food wine to accompany anything from grilled salmon or chicken to burgers or richer stews. John Rankin and Jamie Wolff

*There is a fine public fountain in the Vulture town of Venosa which dates to the 1300s and which is named for a “Messer Oto”, who must have been a local boss of the day.

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $16.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Madonna delle Grazie 2010 Aglianico del Vulture Liscone

Liscone is an old Contrada, or farm; Paulo says that the fruit for the Liscone bottling comes from younger vines — only 30 years old... After 15-20 days in open-top fermenters, the wine goes in old tonneau. It's intense — smokey, very mineral. Savory, with ripe tannin, this isn't a fruit-driven wine, but a really sophisticated expression of the Vulture. The wine is certainly drinkable now, but this is a fine candidate for mid-term aging. A bottle tried recently was open for three days and still quite delicious. Fine stuff! John Rankin and Jamie Wolff

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $17.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Madonna delle Grazie 2008 Aglianico del Vulture Bauccio

Bauccio is a special selection of 50+ year old vines in the Liscone vineyard. After fermentation in open-topped wood, the wine is matured in large tonneau; the wood seems to integrate seamlessly, and the wine is very elegant, with refined weight and finesse. Rich and savory, with a lovely degree of maturity, Bauccio promises even more with a bit more time — it's very deep and maybe even a bit tight, but really delicious. This bottling is only made in exceptional vintages, and we won’t see a 2009 or 2010 vintage. One of the best Aglianico del Vulture we've tasted. John Rankin and Jamie Wolff

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $26.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Fornacina 2013 Rosso di Montalcino

Although from the same vines as the Brunello, the Rosso is selected from fermenting casks that don’t seem to hold up to the rigorous amount of skin contact that the Brunello sees. The result is a grape with a more delicate aromatic profile and a generous amount of bright, cherry fruit. In some ways the aromatics seem a bit more giving than the superb, but powerfully structured 2010 Brunello. Of course, having some bottles of Rosso around the house can help keep your corkscrew away from your Brunello stash. John Rankin

 

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $22.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Rovero NV Grappa Ciabot Mentin Ginestra 500ml

The Rovero estate is an exciting complex: one part winery, one part hotel, one part restaurant, and one part distillery (with an ancient church across the courtyard!) The distillery operation extends much farther than the estate’s fruit, and many of the producers in neighboring Barolo and Barbaresco need Rovero to distill their grape pressings into grappa as there are only a handful of distilleries. In this case we have a rare, single-vineyard grappa made of Barolo from Domenico Clerico’s flagship Ciabot Mentin Ginestra cru. The grappa has a delicious, earthy character, and a pleasant, weighty, viscosity that gives interest without showing the fire-y burn often associated with the spirit. John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $36.99

Rovero 2013 Grignolino d'Asti

Nowadays, Grignolino is often made in a fairly heavy, extracted style that mimics something of the structure of Nebbiolo, but this one is old-school: light, fresh, juicy. It’s dry and savory with lovely bright cherry fruit and a foundation of chalky earth. The wine sings! It’s perfect for fall appetizers — salume, crostini, rich soups — or as red-wine-with-fish. This wine is an absolute delight. Jamie Wolff

 

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $16.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Bianco, Marco 2013 Moscato d'Asti "Belb"

John Rankin and I were tasting at VinItaly — all day, dozens of wines, fighting the crowds... it’s harder work than you might think, and finding exciting wine is a needle-in-haystack operation. In the end, one of the real highlights was this wine — pure, clean, rich but fresh, with lovely aromatics of peach and apricot, and layers of fruit flavors.  It’s quite light in body and has fairly intense fizz, which keeps it lively on the palate. We think this is a great addition to our stock — it so far outperforms the standard (and at a very fair price) that we really hope you will try it. Jamie Wolff

*The photo shows Moscato grapes just before harvest at Marco Bianco, September 2013

Many of us cringe at the saccharine overload of dessert with dessert wine, but Moscato d'Asti's vibrant acid and cleansing bubbles make this wine a refreshing pair to pies, cakes and fresh fruit desserts. John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $16.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

Bianco, Marco 2012 Moscato d'Asti "Villa"

Villa is from 70-year-old vines on a steep hillside in San Stefano Belbo (where all of Bianco’s vines are located); it’s the heart of Moscato d’Asti, in what’s considered the best terroir for the wine. Naturally lower yields from the old vines produce a richer and sweeter wine than the “Belb,” but there is excellent balancing acidity so the wine is fresh and not at all cloying. We had no idea that Moscato d’Asti could reach such heights of complexity. There’s some of  Moscato's typical musky floral notes and intense creamy apricot and peach that extend into nutty and stony aromas. These follow through on the palate, and the finish is long and satisfying. A remarkable wine! Jamie Wolff

*In the photo, Riccardo points out some old vines. You can also see new plantings between the older vines. May 2014

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling off-dry
  • 0 in stock
  • $22.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur