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For us Barolo geeks, it’s interesting to note that Castellero is geographically related to the much more famous Cannubi vineyard which is just west of Castellero, across a little stream and its valley. Cannubi is on two sides of a ridge, with the best parts facing west and a bit north; all of Castellero faces west. The hill of Castellero is deceptive – until you start walking up, you don’t realize that it’s really very steep. The soils are white limestone, dusty when dry and glue-like when wet, but actually well drained and perfectly composed for growing Nebbiolo. Brezza makes Castellero, but Barale is the benchmark, and Castellero is their most important vineyard; it’s great that they are now farming organically, and the vineyard is more beautiful than ever. I wouldn’t have the nerve to suggest that Castellero has ever produced wines as profound as the best Cannubi, but the Barale’s are certainly making higher quality wine than a number of the owners of Cannubi. The Barale’s are steadfast traditional winemakers, using very long fermentations and aging in used, giant wood barrels. Their wines are not flashy, but are refined and elegant, and they age forever. Like all proper Barolo, the Castellero is a tannic and high-acid wine, and no one in Piedmont (or anywhere else in Italy) would dream of drinking it without food. You will, we hope, at least have some cheese on hand, but the wine wants to be consumed at table with something equally special.
One of the standouts of the fabulous Brovia 2013s is the Barolo; that is, the Barolo Classico; the ‘straight’ Barolo; the Barolo Normale (a term that producers don’t care for). In the classic manner, Brovia’s Barolo is a blend of 5 sites, each of which brings its character and thus complexity to what is a particularly good bottle of wine. The development of single-vineyard bottlings in Piedmont has been hugely important for our appreciation and understanding of the individual vineyards, but we sometimes miss out because we are distracted by their prestige, while there are blended wines that are every bit as good – and in the case of this wine – better than most other producers top wines. This one is very fine, with great lift, lovely subtle fruit, and ripe tannins. It’s medium to full-bodied and showing quite rich; like the other 2013s it’s a wine for the cellar. Jamie Wolff
Paiagallo 2014 shows a lot of complexity for such a young wine - at first very savory and ripe, then lovely bright cherry fruit on the palate and finish.This is clearly a wine for the cellar, as behind (or perhaps under?) the beautiful clarity of fruit is that brooding core of material that will take years to fully express itself. Quite a majestic wine, and a triumph for the vintage. Jamie Wolff
A consistently excellent wine — we've been lucky to get to taste this several times in the last few years. It needs a lot of time to breathe, and then it provides a classic example of fully mature Nebbiolo. Jamie Wolff
Enrico VI is Cordero's name for a small parcel of old vines in Villero. It's a grand wine, worthy of its royal name.
Allowing for the fact that wine is a very subjective experience, I like to think that I call it as I see it. So I believe I’d know if it was a disaster, but otherwise I’m irrational and unreliable on the subject of G. Rinaldi. When I’m there, I wander around in a kind of stupor of infatuation with the wines. My penetrating notes (for 2013 Tre Tine, for example) say things like “super-great” [full stop]. I suppose if I have to have a wine crush, it might as well be on one of the best wineries in the world. Jamie WolffPS: Please don’t shoot the messenger. We don’t make the prices (neither, so far as I can tell, do the Rinaldis, because the wines leave the cellar at very reasonable prices). We’re well into the world of luxury goods here, and all I can do is sigh and make puppy dog eyes at the bottles while they’re in the shop. I do think it’s an objective fact that these are great wines and even if it’s a gratuitous comparison, they are the superior of many far more expensive wines.
Brachetto has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. The wine is usually made in the same style of Moscato d’Asti -- the fermentation is stopped when alcohol is still quite low and some of the CO2 is captured to create a slightly sparkling, sweet wine. Farmed strictly organically, the fermentation is arrested with filtration rather than large doses of sulfur (as is common for sweet Brachetto) to limit overall additions to the wine. The wine has opulent strawberry fruit and red flowers on the nose with a lively sparkle and creamy texture braced by bright acid and plenty of sweetness; it is a truly carefree wine that is a joy to drink. Try it this spring as a natural pairing for rhubarb pie, with strawberry shortcake, as a sweet pairing for prosciutto and melon, or as a dessert in and of itself. Andy Paynter
A very fine and very complete wine. Balanced, savory, with super-elegant tannins, this needs some real time in the cellar. Jamie Wolff
Sandri has decided to call this wine "Monforte", rather than by the sub-zone of Perno. But nothing else has changed, and he made great wine in 2012 - rich and ripe but energetic and lifted, with very fine tannins, and with no signs of heat. Jamie Wolff
Last May we tried a ton of Dolcetto in the company of two distinguished tasters who kept saying they didn’t like Dolcetto, which tends to put a damper on the experience. Sandri’s, however, made them sit up and take notice, so I give them credit for staying alert and flexible enough to change their minds. It’s bracingly juicy with wild brambly fruit that’s balanced with savoury herbs and chalky stone. Medium-bodied, very lively and lifted, it’s long and complete. I happen to like Dolcetto, but if they were all half as good as this one I might say I love it. Jamie Wolff
Cantine Barbera, located in Menfi on Sicily’s southwestern coast, is producing wonderful wines from the indigenous varieties of the area like this savory rosato made from Nero d’Avola. The grapes are harvested before the sun rises to protect the acidity from the Sicilian heat, quickly destemmed, and softly pressed without skin contact. Fermentation is triggered with a pied-de-cuve and is conducted in steel where the wine further rests for three months with weekly lees stirring. To me it speaks as a classic Italian rosato: not overtly fruity, rather it is savory and herbal with a quiet backing of fruit. Briney notes come out on the nose with sage, mint and wild herbs over tart strawberry fruit and orange zest. The palate is fairly full with plenty of acidity and slight tannins with flavors of citrus pith, and strawberry fruit. This is a wine well suited to food pairing. I drank it alongside a pizza topped with olives, anchovies, wilted radicchio, and mozzarella but it would be great with charcuterie, olives, briney cheese, greek food, seared tuna, or lemon chicken. Andy Paynter
From very old vines (replanted in 2015), this is very much in the same mold as the Chianti – and was vinified identically – but is considerably deeper and rounder without any additional wood, alcohol, or extract – just a direct expression of the old vines. I think this is remarkable – it strikes a fascinating balance between palate-enveloping darker fruit and finesse. Really a super wine. Jamie Wolff
The Fiasco from Monte Bernardi is a more playful cuvee, but the wine inside the bottle is no less serious for the packaging. Produced from certified organic Sangiovese farmed at high altitude, fermented with native yeast, and aged for a year in tank it is meant to be fresh and easy going. Red cherries and raspberries overlay fresh mint and sage on the nose with a slight tone of red roses. The palate is light and juicy with only a bit of tannin and a slightly bitter finish. All in all this is a classic Italian table wine, able to match with whatever happens to be for dinner though certainly perfect for your next pizza night. Andy Paynter
When Michael purchased the Monte Bernardi Estate in 2003 he was committed to making traditional Chianti without the use of "Bordeaux" varieties even though estate was already planted with French grapes that found their way into so many of Tuscany’s wines. He was already in the process of replanting the vineyards used to produce Retromarcia, so rather than uproot more vines, he diverted all of the French grapes into his own Bordeaux blend: Tzingana. Composed of 45% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, and 15% Petit Verdot, all co-fermented for 3 weeks and raised in barrique and tonneaux for 2 years, the wine is certainly more dense and smooth than any of his Chiantis. Rich blackberries and cassis are lifted by the smell of black tea and bay spice. Soft texture and smooth ripe tannins are supported by nice acidity, and there is a discernible minerality on the finish. Andy Paynter
Retromarcia means “to back up” or “to reverse” and is Michael Schmelzer’s reference to an old approach to Chianti that is hard to find today, focused on allowing the character of Sangiovese to show above everything else. The wine is made from 100% Sangiovese composed of young vines planted on a mix of galestro and sandstone soils. The grapes are fermented with native yeast on the skins for 2 weeks in stainless steel and then raised in a mixture of old barrels and unlined concrete tanks for 18 months before being bottled unfiltered. This wine to me is always quite pretty and the 2015 vintage is no exception. Pale ruby in the glass, it smells of bright red cherry fruit, violets, and woody herbs with slightly darker earthy tone underneath. On the palate, it is light and quite refreshing with great acidity and lots of sour cherry fruit backed by delicate tannins. As a classic Chianti should be the acidity is mouthwatering, warming up the palate for a range of food; try it with everything from classic red sauce pastas, sauteed greens, and saltier cheeses all the way to richer food like roasted lamb or game birds. Andy Paynter
This is a fantastic straw hued Soave (Garganega) from the mother-daughter team at Adalia in the Veneto. Crisp and dry with a hint of grassy texture and a long mineral finish. Eben Lillie
Falanghina seems to be one of the great success stories of southern Italy, emerging from relative obscurity despite being a truly ancient variety into a nearly ubiquitous staple on the market. That has lead regrettably (and predictably) to any number of wines that fail to show the real virtues of the grape. Agnanum Falanghina is anything but predictable; produced from terraced vineyards of own-rooted vines ranging in age from 10 to 60 years old, possible only because of the particular soil of the area, the wine is pure and piercingly mineral. The nose is tart, showing pithy lemon and orange with delicate white florals, notes of mint and lemon balm and a characteristic hint of peach pit. The wine is almost airy on the palate with a fairly soft texture and fresh acidity showing a more deliberately stone fruit character of yellow peach and fresh apricot with a delicate saline finish. it is an obvious match to simple fish dishes but would be equally suited to a wide range of food: try it with goats milk cheese, olives, chicken, or egg dishes. Andy Paynter
Of all the Italian varieties that have been rediscovered in the last few decades (of which there are many dozens), Pecorino is one of the most exciting. Found in the Marche and Abruzzo, Pecorino got its name from the sheep herders who used to eat the grapes while tending their flocks. It is a variety adapted to high altitude hillside vineyards with a long, cool growing season, and typically produces very full body wines, with plenty of acidity and delicate flavors. The Pietramore Pecorino is an archetypal example of how delicious these wines can be. Produced from biodynamically farmed vineyards, the grapes are macerated for 10 hours, fermented in steel, rested on the lees for 3 months, and then bottled with a light filtration. Loads of orchard fruit jump out on the nose over apple blossom, mint, and cool mountain air. The palate is full, sporting 14% alcohol, but has plenty of acidity so it feels crisp rather than heavy with flavors of tart apple, anjou pear, and muddled mint. Suited of course to Pecorino cheese it would also pair well with rich chicken or fish dishes, broccoli gratin, pork chops dressed with apples, or other full flavored cheese. Andy Paynter
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
Contra Soarda consistently produces excellent Vespaiolo wines in the Veneto, and the 2017 vintage is the best I’ve tasted yet. Vespaiolo derives its name from the wasps (vespa) that feed on the grapes as sugar accumulates later in the season. The wines are often made into a passito style sweet wine but this wine shines as a rich, dry wine with bountiful aromatics. The vines are planted on a decomposed volcanic soil at high density to limit yields, and are fermented with native yeast in steel. The nose is quite effusive with scents of apple blossom, white peach, orchard fruit, and ripe citrus. Fairly full on the palate with a rich texture, the initial flavors of juicy apple and peach give the impression of sweetness which is lifted away by high acidity and a mineral finish. Intense and refreshing, this wine would pair well with asparagus and egg dishes, scallops, shrimp, washed-rind or fresh cheese, or with a vegetable risotto. Andy Paynter
I am an unabashed fan of the wines coming from Fongoli, especially the fantastic Trebbiano Spoletino orange wine they make. The 2017 Vintage shows verve and freshness despite the the fact that it is one of the warmest vintages on record. The grapes are macerated in open top fermenters for 2 weeks with soft punch downs, and then rested in bottle. It is a hazy golden color in the glass, with aromas of ripe apple, delicate white flowers, and autumnal notes of fallen leaves and cut hay. Delicate tannins come through on the palate, with flavors of fresh apricot and ripe citrus with a crisp finish. Despite being bottle without any added sulfur this wine maintained freshness for days in my refrigerator. Andy Paynter
La Staffa is an estate founded in 1994 by the Baldi family and has embraced biodynamic farming under the direction of Riccardo Baldi. The 2017 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi is a beautiful example of the fresh and easy style of Verdicchio I love. The wine is fermented in stainless steel, cold settled over the winter, and rested on lees only briefly before being bottled in the spring following the vintage. The nose shows crisp stone fruit and notes of clementines and almond flowers. The palate is light and juicy, with tart white peaches, orange citrus and a dry, mineral finish. An easy match for fish it would also be suited to rich cheese, slightly bitter veggies like broccoli rabe, or served as a refreshing summer quaffer. Andy Paynter
Passerina is a grape that I have little experience with beyond the wines of La Visciola in Lazio, which is a real shame given the depth of flavor a lifted texture the wines show. An obscure variety native to Lazio (and possible distinct from a grape also named Passerina that grows along Italy’s Adriatic coast) the 2014 Donna Rosa shows spiced golden apples on the nose with autumnal notes of cut hay and sagebrush. The palate is fairly full with great acidity and a soft almost honeyed texture lifted by crisp orchard fruit with a dry finish. Really lovely on its own, I think that it would be well suited to baked fish, green salads with apples and lemon vinaigrette, fresh cheese especially goats milk cheese, or chicken salad. Andy Paynter
Passerina is a grape that I have little experience with beyond the wines of La Visciola in Lazio, which is a real shame given the depth of flavor a lifted texture the wines show. An obscure variety native to Lazio (and possible distinct from a grape also named Passerina that grows along Italy’s Adriatic coast) The 2015 shows a more lifted character than the 2014. The nose is fairly tight on opening, giving notes of tart apple and pear leading into thyme and white flowers after a few minutes in the glass. Medium body with a soft texture and crisp acidity the flavors show more candied lemon peel, green apple, and tart pear. Try it with grilled fish, potato or white pizza, soft cheese, or cured pork. Andy Paynter
The ‘Tin’ cuvées are the most innovative wines being made at Montesecondo. The name is an homage to Silvio’s North African heritage (“Tin” means clay in Arabic); the ‘Tin’ wines are fermented and aged in clay amphora. The white 'Tin' is produced from a parcel that is primarily Trebbiano Toscano interplanted with a bit of Malvasia. The grapes are destemmed and placed in 250 to 350-liter unlined amphora to ferment for six months, and then bottled unfined and unfiltered. The wine is a rich, hazy gold in the glass and shows aromas of ripe stone fruit, orange zest, honeycomb, and wildflowers, with a spicy cut of cinnamon and cloves. The palate is more lifted than many orange wines made with extended skin contact, perhaps due to the relatively tame personality of Trebbiano Toscano. The texture is soft rather than rugged with crisp acidity and delicate tannins showing flavors of tart white peach and fresh citrus fruit. Fascinating on its own I think that it would be an easy match for all kinds of food: try it with rich pasta dishes, olives and cheese, white fish, with grilled chicken or artichokes. Andy Paynter
In the realm of obscure Italian grape varieties, Blatterle takes the cake for rarity. With a total of three producers and no more than 1.5 hectares planted, the variety isn't even recognized by the Italian government and therefore can’t be listed anywhere on the label. Nusserhof is the largest producer of Blatterle in the world, making around 40 hectoliters annually of the stunning B….... cuvée. Vinified with native yeast on the skins, gently pressed, and then rested in steel, the winemaking is intentionally straight forward to better showcase the variety. The nose is complex, with layers of yellow flowers, chlorophyll, fresh green herbs, yellow peaches, and lemon verbena. The palate has some density but is lifted by bright acidity and crisp flavors of citrus and pithy stone fruit with a very dry finish. I think it is a perfect match for spring vegetables prepared simply; think asparagus dressed in lemon and olive oil or a salad of pea shoots and goat cheese. Andy Paynter
Oltretorrente has produced a wonderful Timorasso since they were founded in 2010 by Chiara Penati and Michele Conoscenti. The vines, planted in 1996, are tended organically with biodynamic practices and the grapes are vinified simply: the bunches are pressed whole-cluster and fermented with native yeasts in steel, resting on the lees for 8 months to lend texture and complexity. A touch golden in the glass, the wine shows strong aromas of ripe peach, honey, beeswax, and yellow flowers. The palate has some weight with a smooth texture, plenty of acidity, and rich stone fruit over a chalky mineral backbone. Simultaneously rich and crisp this wine would be a great match for more assertive dishes; try it with asparagus and hollandaise, cured cheese, risotto Milanese, honey-basted chicken, or white pizza. Andy Paynter
Our colleague Anna DeBeer has joined us in sales and we are very happy about it! Here are her first published words of wisdom: Timorasso, once the most commonly grown white grape in Piedmont, fell into decline after phylloxera ravaged the area in the late 19th century and it was replaced mostly with the much easier to grow Cortese grape. It has been only in the last few decades that the finicky (as it is prone to a number of diseases, thin skinned and low yielding) Timorasso has resurfaced, and this example from Principiano is absolutely one of the tastiest and most complex examples I have tried. Bright and pale lemon in color, it looks and smells as fresh and crisp as the mountain air from where it is grown. A pronounced herbal nose with salty and stony undertones leads into light white floral, white peach and almond aromas. On the palate its racy acidity cuts through first, followed by herbal notes of anise, chervil and hay, chased by zesty citrus and stone fruit flavors. The finish is exceptionally long and nutty and slightly bitter, yet stony and refreshing. I enjoyed this with a simple salad of cherry tomatoes and cucumber (from my tiny garden), tossed with feta, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs, which were fantastic together, but I can imagine this pairing with an endless array of dishes from pasta to chicken to vegetables, or of course, savored on its own, letting the Timorasso speak for itself. Anna DeBeer I went crazy over this wine when I tasted the newly released 2016 in May in Monforte d’Alba. The wine seems absolutely typical of Timorasso, one of the more interesting and serious of the zillion Italian grapes you may not have heard of, or heard of until recently. If you told me that the 720 SLM was from Timorasso’s classic home in the Colli Tortonesi (about 100km east of Barolo) I’d believe it. The best Colli Tortonesi wines are fairly rich and full-bodied but remain elegant if the alcohol levels are in check. That’s a challenging if, and it certainly helps Principiano that his Timorasso vines are at 720 meters above sea level, or 2-3 times higher than Colli Tortonesi vineyards. There are some wines from there that I really like, even love (Oltretorrente, Ricci), but I have yet to taste anything this good. Number One Fact: 12% alcohol! And obviously fully-ripe fruit, and very obviously pure and not manipulated. The wine is on the savory side aromatically, and the same saline and stony structure combined with nuts, hay, herbs, peach and pear, all carry through on the palate. It starts as tart and crisp and then grows and expands and is unusually complex, long and intense – rich and full, but just when most wines of this type would deliver heat, it’s ethereal and effortless, entirely refreshing and fascinating. There’s tons of material in balance – it reminds me a bit of good Chenin Blanc in profile, but very Italian with its almond-skin, delicately bitter tang on the finish. Made in stainless with indigenous yeasts, no clarification or filtration, and it goes through malolactic. A serious wine, seriously delicious; 2000 bottles made, of which we have reserved a greedy portion. Speaking of greedy: Since spending the month of May in Italy with no-holds-barred at the table, we’ve been having an all-vegetable summer – vegan actually. As the cook in the family I think I’d find it pretty difficult to sustain in the cold months, but I’ve been shopping at the Union Square greenmarket 2-3 times a week and the choice and quality is amazing. Above you can see last night’s dinner (a rare pasta indulgence): grilled eggplant, chopped tomato and cherry tomatoes, garlic, fresh red chili, basil, and mint. Normally I’d Norma-ize it with mozzarella, or at least some ricotta salata, and certainly parmigiano, but it was very satisfying without, and quite perfect with the Timorasso, amplifying the herbal side of the dish and the nutty side of the wine. Jamie Wolff
Ronchi di Cialla is most famous for their role in reviving the grape Schioppettino, and rightfully so, but the Ribolla Gialla will always be my favorite. It is a distinctive expression of Ribolla from 30-year-old vines exposed to the south west that shows a delicate fruit character and crunchy minerality. The wine is vinified in stainless steel, held in contact with the lees for three months with frequent batonnage, and then bottled unfiltered. Quite pale in the glass, the nose shows a mix of lemon pith and clementines over ripe golden apples, white flowers with a woodsy note of sage and underbrush. Medium bodied with crisp acidity, it has a light texture with juicy citrus fruit and has a sharply mineral finish. A lovely wine it would pair beautifully with pan seared scallops, fried flounder, or skate dressed with herbs and served with fresh spring peas. Andy Paynter
The wines of Azienda Agricola Adalia are endlessly enjoyable, none more so than their very traditional Valpolicella. The wine is produced from a blend of Corvina and Corvina Grossa with small percentages of Rondinella and Molinara trained in pergola and farmed biodynamically. The grapes are destemmed and fermented with native yeast in 40 hectoliter oak vats on the skins for one week. Malolactic occurs naturally in stainless steel where the wine is rested for a few months before bottling. The nose shows tart red fruit and a bit of orange zest over herbal notes of sage, mint, and a whiff of pungent spices. The wine is light on the palate with bright acidity and restrained tannins offering a slightly bitter, mineral finish. Adalia’s Valpolicella is a perfect match for a herbed stuffing, roast turkey with gravy, green bean casserole, or for game meats prepared simply. Andy Paynter
Bussoletti’s Ciliegiolo di Narni “0535” is a fresh, easygoing red wine from central Umbria and shows exactly why I have fallen in love with the grape. Produced from a four hectare plot of younger vines planted facing north to encourage elegance over ripeness, the wine is fermented with ambient yeast in steel tank and bottled after resting for six months. The nose is rich with fresh red cherries and rose floral notes with delicate tones of black pepper. Juicy on the palate with restrained acidity and very little tannin, it shows more strawberry and raspberry fruit. This is a wine that can lift through richer foods: try it as a foil to creamy or cheesy pasta dishes, as a pairing for charcuterie, or enjoy it on its own. The lion on the label is a reference to C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia which were inspired by images of the medieval castle in Narni (also pictured). Andy Paynter
The Greeks started producing wine in Cirò about 3,000 years ago and used to offer it to winners of the ancient Olympics. The Calabretta family has been growing grapes in this part of Calabria for four generations, but in 2008 Cataldo and his sisters Maria and Michela decided to start their own estate and refurbish the family cellar. Cirò Rosso Classico is made from 100% Gaglioppo, which is the main grape variety of the production zone of Cirò DOC. Their vineyards are situated on rolling hills of limestone and clay about 50 meters above sea level. The harvest takes place at the end of September. There are 14 days of skin maceration, fermentation takes place using wild yeasts, the wine then matures for 10 months in glazed concrete tanks and seven months in the bottle. The Rosso is very earthy and gamey with lots of black plums and cherries. After about three hours, it really opened up with hints of mushroom and violets. Definitely pair it with strong flavors like Chicken Marsala, Braised Beef Ragu with Garlic Polenta, or Porcini Mushroom Risotto. Christine Manula
Cannonau is surrounded by controversy about whether or not it is Grenache of Spanish origin or a Sardinian descendant of Grenache, i.e. a local grape (which is characteristically covered in much detail in Ian D’Agata’s The Native Grapes of Italy). Without wading into this frankly fascinating ampelographic morass, I can say that the Cardedu 2013 Cannonau is one the very best that I have tasted. The wine is produced from 15 year old vines planted in soils of sandy loam with decomposed pink granite. It is vinified in steel with native yeasts, and then rested in a mixture of old botti and cement before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The nose is earthy with brambly berry fruit, rosemary, tobacco, and pressed violets. It is fairly rich on the palate with a soft texture, fine tannins, and lifting acidity showing more red fruit than the nose along with dried citrus peel, and dusty earth. I think it is a perfect match for roast pork or herbed lamb shoulder but would pair wonderfully with hard cheese like Pecorino Sardo, cured olives, fennel and citrus salad, or eggplant dishes. Andy Paynter
The wines of Sardinia sometimes seem a world apart from the rest of Italy, showcasing a unique stable of indigenous grapes not found on the mainland. One of the most interesting is Monica, a grape that shows much more freshness and lift than most Cannanou or Bovale, while still maintaining real intensity of flavor. Cardedu has produced a lovely Monica from dry-farmed vineyards, tended without herbicides or pesticides, and fermented with native yeasts, in stainless steel. The nose is intense with notes of rhubarb, strawberry, mint, wild sage, spice tones of black pepper, and a whiff of sea air. The palate is light (surprisingly so for its 13.5% abv) with fresh acidity and very little tannin, showing juicy red fruit and the same intense whirl of herbs and spices with a salty finish. "Praja" means “the beach” in the Sardinian dialect and it would be perfect for a beach side cookout. Try it slightly chilled this summer with grilled fish, or better yet fish tacos, lamb burgers, sausages, briney foods like olives or feta, or with salads inflected with green herbs. Andy Paynter
Vermentino is one of the only varieties that is widely planted on both Sardinia and the mainland of Italy, though Sardinian examples tend to be more intense and full-bodied. The Vermentino from Cardedu is produced from dry-farmed vineyards, tended without herbicides or pesticides, and fermented with native yeasts, with a few hours of skin contact in steel tanks. It is an intense white wine showing tones of wild mint and rosemary on the nose over orange rind, ripe yellow peaches, and hot sea air. The palate is quite full and dry, with mouthwatering acidity, juicy stone fruit, and a salty finish. This is a Vermentino well suited to fatty fish like sardines, cured cheese, spinach pie, gyro pitas with tzatziki, or herbed chicken. Andy Paynter
Torre Nova is 100% Negroamaro from 30-60 year old vines grown on clay and rocky pebbles. The 2015 is quite light and a bit higher in acid than the last vintage, but it’s really pretty on the palate. Think tart cherries and red plums, it’s very herbaceous with a hint of nuts and pepper on the finish. Try pairing this with roast pigeon, a simply prepared fish or even beef tartare. Christine Manula
Named after Natalino’s wife Anne, this Negroamaro is from 30-60 year old vines grown on clay and chalk. At harvest, Natalino destems and presses the grapes 2 -3 times, puts it in cement tanks for five days of skin contact, racks the wine and then leaves it in cement from September to March. Before bottling, he puts the wine in stainless steel for a few weeks to refine and then adds a very low dose of sulfur at bottling. The result is a medium bodied wine with good tannins that tastes of dark cherries and cocoa, with a hint of nuts and pepper. Try pairing it with a traditional Pugliese dish like pasta with chickpeas and anchovies, slow cooked lamb with potatoes, or just throw a tuna steak on the grill. Christine Manula
“Nataly” is named after Natalino himself. The wine is fermented and aged in concrete tanks and underground concrete vats, with a very low dose of sulfur at bottling. It’s bit fuller in body than the Negroamaro with meatier tannins, juicy dark plums, violets, anise and a hint of pepper on the finish. Try pairing Primitivo with Spaghetti Puttanesca, Seafood Jambalaya, Short Ribs or hard cheeses like Edam or Smoked Gouda. Christine Manula
Pitch-perfect weeknight Nero d’Avola: light on its feet, with a vibrant acidity and ripe berry and juicy plum fruits. The bright, playful palate is balanced by just the right hint of dried herbs and spices to underscore any red sauce, pie or pasta. The Rossojbleo is dry farmed from about ten hectares of head-trained bush vines without the use of any chemicals or machines. Gulfi’s commitment to a manual harvest, along with organic practices in the vineyard and vinification using native yeasts, makes for a seriously satisfying young wine. And while this definitely holds up on day two, it’s pretty hard to resist finishing the bottle! Andy Paynter
Il Fortunato aced it with their Rosato Spumante; another lively sparkler produced from organic vineyards with only a minimal addition of sulfur. The nose is playful with a mix of bright berry fruits and fresh red cherries cut by tart apple skins. On the palate, a delicate mousse lifts the wine showing some weight, great acidity, and just touch of sugar. Absolutely lovely! Pair with charcuterie, simple pasta, or simply drink on its own. Andy Paynter
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. The Ju Quarto is sourced from a 60-year-old vineyard planted over a decomposed volcanic sand, rich in iron and showing a red hue. The wine is vinified on native yeast in lined-cement, and rested in large barrels for around a year. It is a more delicate expression of the grape with beautiful cherry fruit and red floral tones on the nose. The palate is light, almost airy, with bright acidity and very little tannin. Subtle rather than effusive it shows cherries, bay, and mint with a long elegant finish. I would pair it with less assertive food to better enjoy the delicacy of the wine; think leaner charcuterie, pasta, simply prepared fish, poached chicken, or with caprese salad. Andy Paynter
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. The Mozzatta is the most assertive cuvee from the estate, made from 60-year-old vines planted on a “grey, clay soil,” that is a clay with some degree of incorporated limestone. Like the other reds it is vinified on native yeast in lined-cement (though with the addition of 20% whole cluster rather than being entirely destemmed) and then rested in large barrels for around a year. The result is a much more assertive style of Cesanese with more earthy flavors. The nose is brooding, showing pine needle and forest floor over ripe red fruit and black pepper spice. The body is quite full with grippy tannins and plenty of acidity thought it shows deeper flavors rather than extra weight on the palate. The finish is dry and quite mineral. Try it with grilled sausage, chops, rich vegetable dishes, carbonara or other full flavored pastas. Andy Paynter
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. Sourced from the same vineyard as the Passerina wines the estate produces, the 2015 Vicinale is the most approachable Cesanese from La Visciola. The nose carries hallmark flavors of tart and brambly red fruit with herbal tones of bay spice and pepper plant. The palate is quite light with whispery tannins, and tart, fresh acidity carrying plenty of red raspberry and cherry fruit with a slight menthol tone leading into a dry finish. As with all Cesanese wines I can't imagine enjoying this without food: give it a shot with margarita pizza, red sauce pastas, charcuterie, semi-firm cheese, or of course with pasta carbonara for a truly classic pairing. Andy Paynter
Cesanese is perhaps the most “important” indigenous red grape of Lazio, capable of making fresh red wines with intense perfume and delicate structure. The reds from La Visciola are all varietal Cesanese from different plots showing distinct features of this underappreciated grape. The Vignale plot was planted in the 1960s on a soil of mixed sand and clay. It is vinified with native yeast in lined-cement, and rested in large barrels for around a year. The Vignale shows a more definitely spicy nose with black pepper, allspice, and fruit tones of cherry and orange zest with dried bay leaves. The palate has a fairly rich texture with fine-grained tannin and restrained acidity, showing poise but with a bit more heft than the Ju Quarto. The Vignale will pair easily and widely; try it with everything from pizza and simple veggie dishes to carbonara, pork chops, or roasted mushrooms. Andy Paynter
Lagrein is a grape that shares many similarities with Syrah: deep berry fruit, a savory smoky character, and distinct herbal tones. In the hands of Martin Gojer it yields a full-bodied wine that nonetheless captures a sense of alpine freshness. The wine is fermented with 70% whole clusters for four weeks with a submerged cap for the first two. It is then raised in old, small barrels for two years and bottled without fining or filtration. The wine shows savory aromas of ripe blackberry, turned earth, leather, tobacco, and black pepper. The palate is full and quite smooth, with grippy tannins, focused acidity, and more flavors of forest floor and rich black fruit. It is well suited to rich foods; try it with game meat or lamb, smoked sausage, cured cheese, hearty vegetable dishes, or with stew. Andy Paynter
Of all the wines made by Martin Gojer at Pranzegg, the Schiava is to me the most interesting. Schiava wines are often pleasant thirst-quenchers of little substance but Martin saw greater potential in his vines. Sourced from 50 year-old vines trained in pergola and farmed biodynamically, this is a more profound expression of the grape. The wine is fermented with 30% stem inclusion and macerates for 6 weeks in large conical vats followed by elevage in old oak and cement tank for 10 months. Tart cherries and raspberries leap out on the nose over aromas of lavender, black pepper, and slight hint of leather. The palate is medium bodied, with great acidity, delicate tannins and a lifted mineral finish. Martin described it as a “really charming full bodied wine that is on the other hand drinkable,” and I couldn't agree more. Try it with duck or wild boar, charcuterie, hard cheese, mushroom dishes, or rich pasta. Andy Paynter
This is a very pretty and pure expression of Etna; bright, aromatic with cherry, earth and lava, herbs and flowers. An elegant Nerello, and at a great price for quality. The volcanic minerality and complexity is there, but with grace and delicacy in the mid-palate.
Romeo del Castello Vigorosa is a stunning rosato from Sicily produced by Rossana Romeo and her daughter Chiara Vigo. It is made from a selection of the estates oldest vines (some over 100 years old) that are harvested earlier than for the Vigo rosso for acidity. Vinified slowly with native yeast, the wine has a ruby red hue with flavors of cherry fruit, wildflowers, sagebrush, mint, and rich tones of ripe citrus. Fairly full bodied with bright acidity and soft tannins the wine has a toothsome texture with an elegant and very mineral finish. Try it with seared tuna, spinach pie, grilled sausage, or with any dish involving fennel and oranges.
Tasting Vinica’s Tintilia makes me wonder how this grape ever fell out of favor in Molise in the first place. It seems particularly well adapted to the high altitude vineyards of the region, showing a balance between ripe fruit and fresh acidity. The grapes are crushed at low pressure and allowed to ferment naturally in open top vessels before being held in steel tanks for two years. There is no temperature control at any point, which allows malolactic fermentation to occur naturally over time. The wine has a pleasant herbal tone of green pepper that peaks out on the nose over tart berry fruit, red roses, and moist earth. The palate is quite fresh and marked by bright acidity and soft tannins with a pleasant, earthy finish. This may not be a wine to cellar for ten years but it is a wine that casually conveys a sense of joy and is a carefree food pairing choice. Give it a try with rich pasta dishes, roast pork, stuffed mushrooms or open it at your next summer barbeque. Andy Paynter