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Wow, this is performing at another level entirely [from the Barolo Grinzane], with lots of camphor, and real intensity to the earthy underlay and herb-framed cherry fruit. Bright, juicy, and showing lovely purity in the mouth, this is vibrant and nervous with dusty ripe tannins. This is delicious, the tannins have a little herbal note that lends freshness. There’s a slight natural feel to this, but with such purity and persistence to the fruit. Gregory Dal Piaz
The Cantina Del Lupo 2014 Barbera d’Asti is a textured, fruit forward Barbera that feels more serious than many of the Barberas coming out of Asti. Rather than light red fruit, the Cantina Del Lupo shows fairly concentrated dark berry fruit on the nose with an herbal tinge to it. Fairly full and showing some sweet spice on the palate, it has fresh acidity and very soft tannins. Pair it with pizza, tomatoes based pasta dishes, simple chicken dishes. Andy Paynter
I think the 2010 Barolo is a special wine, showing transparent Bussia dark fruit, elegant and austere stoniness, and the harmonious character of the vintage's best wines. The equilibrium and finesse that are part of those best wines is very evident; although the 2010 will age (and improve) for a very long time, it’s quite delicious now. Regarding Bussia, in Barolo MGA, the great cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti writes: “The first cru, along with Rocche di Castiglione, to be officially declared on a Barolo label in the “modern era”, Bussia is not only the best vineyard site in all of Monforte d’Alba, but one of the super-stars of the entire appellation, capable of stimulating the dreams and desires of wine lovers all over the world.” Don't be put off by the low price! We set prices based on what we pay – if we get a good buy, then you do too. The Clerico wines are imported for Chambers Street; with more beaks dipping, the Barolo would normally be 50-60% more expensive in this market, as is the case for many of Clerico’s peers. The favorable exchange rate with the Euro has also helped make this an incredible buy for the quality of the wine. Jamie Wolff
From the ripe 2009 vintage, Giacomo Conterno's Barolo Cascina Francia avoids the overly rich character of some of the wines of their neighbors. Perfumes of orange oil, earth, grilled meat arise from the glass. The palate while dense and structured shows fine counterpoise between power and elegance, with sweet fruit, soil notes, and savory notes framed by ripe tannins and buoyed by good acidity for the vintage. This is quite pretty and while drinking nicely with decanting, this will benefit from another 10-20 years in the cellar when the fruit and structure should integrate. John McIlwain
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
1967 Barale, Burlotto, Cappellano, Cavallotto, Fiorina, E Pira, Marcarini, Oddero, Produttori del Barbaresco, Prunotto, F Rinaldi, G Rinaldi, Vietti...
This Rosso is 90% Barbera and 10% Dolcetto. We will drink some on Thanksgiving – we have a miscellaneous crowd of fellow-orphans, and they represent a wide range of taste and interest in wine, or lack thereof. I am not normally a fan of blends from Piedmont, so it’s surprising to me that I love this wine. There is still plenty of old vine Barbera character, but extra vivacity and complexity from the Dolcetto makes it really delicious and interesting. I anticipate it to be a crowd-pleaser, with enough intrigue for wine lovers, easy drinkability for the drinkers, and a very good pick to play well with the crazy range of Thanksgiving flavors. Jamie Wolff
Mint, balsam, on top of full Nebbiolo aromatics and a lot of minerality; very ripe and firm tannins. This shows that it’s not all about 2010! It’s made from younger vines in Boscareto (see below), usually harvested rather later than the neighbors. Principiano thinks that his organic viticulture has made a huge difference in the health of the vines, even in difficult growing seasons. The wine gets about a month of maceration and then is aged in 20,000 and 40,000 liter barrels. It’s a harmonious and deep wine with a long future. Jamie Wolff
For Christmas this year I would like to be given the Giuseppe Rinaldi 2002 Barolo, in magnum. Please. In Piedmont the summer of ’02 saw unprecedented quantities of rain, cool temps, landslides, hail, and downpours of frogs – just about every bad wet weather thing that can happen, and many producers didn’t even make wine. By way of contrast, Giacomo Conterno bottled only Monfortino; I haven’t tasted it for a while but it was pretty spectacular then (it would be very interesting to taste the 2002 Monfortino blind… does anyone with a bottle want to join the experiment?). And G Rinaldi made really good Barolo, which I was first wowed by in 2007, and then again last May. So I’d like that mag, please. Jamie Wolff
Formerly labeled Cannubi San Lorenzo - Ravera, this is close to same blend / same wine. Early on (from barrel in 2014) the Tre Tine seemed closer in style to Brunate than usual, sharing a dark core of ripe fruit, and very ripe tannin. A year later there was more obvious difference, with the elegance of Cannubi beginning to shine. Out of about 120 Barolos, this is one of the very best 2011s we've tasted. Jamie Wolff
Close to the Roagna family house in Barbaresco, Paje feels like the home vineyard; the Roagna vines run down from top of the slope, nestled in the apex of an open oval. As on all of their land, the plants between the rows of grapes are never cut. Luca says that the hand-work in the vines helps to keep the growth down; the plants compete for water and so force the vines to grow deeper roots. Many growers will tell you that too much growth in the rows promotes excess humidity and risk of mildew, but the Roagnas feel this isn’t an issue because their vines have always co-existed with the other plants and are generally in great health. The vines themselves are also never trimmed, the theory (which is somewhat widespread) being that the plant should be permitted to continue to grow naturally, instead of being forced to put more energy into ripening fruit. Paje 2011 is stellar, a wine to make converts of lovers of Burgundy, Chambolle to the Barolo Pira’s Gevrey, delicate, with very fine-grained tannin, a bit reserved, and very elegant. Jamie Wolff PS The image is of Luca in Paje at the edge of his plot; behind him you can see the neighbor's neatly herbicided rows.
Pira is a monopole of the Roagnas, and is separated from Rocche di Castiglione by a little indentation in the hillside; the Pira vines are lower in elevation. The soils gradually shift from the ‘blue’ clay of the southern part of Rocche to the yellow soils of Scarrone (which begins on the north side of Pira). Gevrey to Paje’s Chambolle; although fundamentally austere now the 2011 is a super-sophisticated and complex wine, with a rich side and with great cut; there are only hints at its depths, but more than enough to fall in love. Jamie Wolff
1988 is considered to be a very fine vintage in Montalcino.
Back in 1972 Alberto Carli wanted to make a great Brunello, so he hired the famous Tuscan Enologist Giulio Gambelli to be his winemaker and together they created Il Colle Brunello di Montalcino. They produced about 150-200 cases a year and stored them in an underground cellar, never releasing them on the market. Apparently it wasn’t until he was dying that he told his family about this secret wine they had been making for almost 20 years. His daughter Catarena took over the winery in 2001 and picked up where her father left off. Little has changed in the last 35-40 years: they still use natural yeasts, there’s no temperature control, there are long maceration times, no filtering, and the wine is aged in Slavonian botti. Although I’m sure it will only improve with age, the wine is quite beautiful now, ripe with stewed plums, leather and anise. When you’re ready to cook a leg of lamb or a pot roast, this would definitely be a good choice. Christine Manula
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
"Cherry water and rocks." This is how Monte Bernardi winemaker Michael Schmeltzer first described his 2015 rosé to us, and we couldn't agree more. This blend of Sangiovese (90%) with Canaiolo, Malvasia and Trebbiano comes from the village of Panzano in the heart of Chianti Classico. Certified organic and farmed biodynamically, this is serious and classic Italian rosé, abundant in structure, texture, depth and longevity on the palate. "Cherry water and rocks" is indeed an apt description, and those qualities are interwoven with raspberry, rhubarb pie, an herbal medley, and a faint, pleasant bitterness reminiscent of candied blood orange peel that feels refreshing on the palate. Delicious now, but should have the stuffing to age a few years. Oskar Kostecki
San Fernando Ciliegiolo is a perfect example of how delightful the grape Ciliegiolo can be when made as a varietal wine. Produced from a 1.7 Hectare parcel of young vines the grapes are fermented with native yeasts over 12 days, rested on the lees for five months, and bottled unfined with only a light filtration. The wine smells of sour cherries, raspberries, woody green herbs, and just a whiff of lavender. The palate is playful, with refreshing acidity and very soft tannins giving the wine a juicy feel. This is an honest quaffable wine that will pair effortlessly with all sorts of food: try it with caprese salad, cured salmon, soft cheese, cured salami, braised pork or enjoy it on its own. AP
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 60 to nearly 200 year 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 young cheese, Provencal cuisine, cured salmon, or pork tenderloin. Andy Paynter
Giovanni Arcari and Nico Danesi set out in 2006 to make Franciacorta in a style that paid more attention to the terroir of Lombardi than that of Champagne. Arcari e Danesi Dossagio Zero is the fruit of those efforts. Made from 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Blanc, both harvested for ripeness, the wine is powerful on the nose with golden apple, ripe peach, layers of floral notes and a pronounced toasty note. The wine is full, smooth and very dry with a lively mousse, ripe orchard fruit, kiwi, and a mineral undertone. Rich and forward, Zero Dossagio would pair beautifully with washed rind cheese, pear and Gorgonzola salad, soft scrambled eggs, coconut curry, or other assertive dishes. 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
Fongoli’s Maceratum is a wine that is endlessly exciting to me. Made from Trebbiano Spoletino, as opposed to the much more common Trebbiano Toscano, the Maceratum is a complex orange wine that shows depth but maintains lift and freshness. Harvested in late October, when the grapes have ripened fully, the must is fermented in open vats on the skins for 10 days with daily punch downs to keep the cap moist and gently extract color. The resulting wine is a deep copper color with a spicy nose showing apricots, preserved lemon, and fresh oranges with a touch of dry hay. The palate comes through with tart golden apples, yellow peaches, and more apricots layered over present ripe tannins and braced by bright acidity. The finish is persistant and quite mineral with refreshing lingering fruit. The structure of this wine lends it to carefree food pairing: try it with shrimp risotto, braised pork with baked apples, grilled peaches, washed rind cheese, or whole fish finished with spicy chutney. Andy Paynter
Giol’s Sur Lie Prosecco is consistently one of my favorite bottles of bubbles. Its organically farmed, vinified without sulfur, dry, and very refreshing, not to mention the fact that it costs well under 20$. Some people might be put off because the wine is fairly cloudy in the glass due to never being disgorged; but, the nose is bright and lemony with a slight salty note. The palate is bone dry with a refreshing mousse and tart green apple notes. It is lifted and very clean, well suited to food with its slightly bitter finish. Try it with oysters on the half shell, bacalao on toast, olives and cheese, or with eggs for brunch. Andy Paynter
Bettigna Vermentino is a classic example of the grape from a region known for Vermentino (or is it known for Pigato?): the Colli di Luni straddling the border of Liguria and Tuscany. Fairly deep and golden in the glass, the nose is dense with ripe stone fruit and golden apples with subtle notes of honeysuckle and thyme and a whiff of zesty citrus. Medium weight on the palate with real focus, the acidity and mineral tones of the wine make the fruit seem leaner but in a refreshing way with a saline and slightly bitter finish. Fairly bracing by itself, the wine shines with food; it would suit flounder simply fried, skate with pesto, or any delicate fish quite well. Andy Paynter
When confronted with a sparkling wine made from a grape that usually isn't carbonated, I have to say that I am pretty tentative about taking the plunge; but time and again my skepticism proves to be unwarranted. Such was my experience with Garg’n’go, La Biancara’s sparkler made from Garganega, which is frankly delicious. A slightly turbid straw gold in the glass, the nose shows pronounced notes of ripe stone fruit, a yeasty character, preserved orange zest, and pear blossom. The texture is lush and creamy braced by a tight bead and great acidity showing more orchard fruit and a slight tropical note. Refreshing on its own, try Garg’n’go with summer salads, soft and washed-rind cheese, sashimi, or fried fish. Andy Paynter
The 2016 Lombardo Gavi is another fantastic vintage from our favorite producer of Cortese. The grapes are hand-harvest, gently pressed, rested briefly on their skins and then held on the lees 5 months before being bottled. The nose shows bright lemon zest and with a slightly pithy tone and tart white peaches with a distinct note of beeswax and subtle white flowers. It is bright on the palate with crisp acidity but is still mid-weight with a slight leesy quality and a grippy mineral finish. Lombardo’s Gavi would be well suited to fresh goat or sheep's cheese like chèvre, broiled fish, chicken dishes, or citrusy salads. AP
Timorasso is a golden-colored grape from Piedmont's Colli Tortonese. Aside from Gavi and Moscato, Piedmont is not well known for white wines, and Timorasso has a bit more richness and weight compared to most white wine grapes. There's a bit of spice and an almost nutty character that complements marmalade and orange fruit tones. This wine is very interesting to try as an example of an heirloom variety that almost went extinct, and it is extremely capable at the dinner table for anything from seafood, Middle Eastern food, or rich pastas. John Rankin
The 2014 Sant’Erasmo Bianco is a striking wine grown on the island of San Erasmo within the lagoon of Venice. Premised on Malvasia Istriana but comprised of a number of other local cultivars all planted on its own root stock, the wine is deeply colored in the glass, with a nose reminiscent of ripe golden apples and honeysuckle undercut by a salty tone. The palate is bold, with an initial attack of juicy orchard fruit and rich texture, followed by a honeyed note giving way to a long savory finish. More than anything else, the Orto shows a stern backbone of minerality bracing its mellow acidity and weight on the palate. I served it with shrimp cooked with their own stock and butter, but this wine would pair beautifully with anything out of the sea, soft cheese, or rich vegetable dishes. Open early and serve slightly chilled. Andy Paynter
Solouva, The side project of Giovanni Arcari with Andrea Rudelli, shows a more opulent side of Franciacorta. The nose shows very ripe fruit with notes of white peach and golden apple alongside guava and passion fruit with a slight brioche note from 3 years on the lees. The palate is fairly dry with good acidity but more than anything it is fleshy with juicy peaches and tropical fruit lifted by an active mousse. A luscious wine to try with grilled peaches and herbed goat cheese, chicken salad, bagels and lox, or rich soups. Andy Paynter
I'm a huge fan of orange wines and I think that Trebbiano Terre Degli Osci from Vinica is stellar. It is produced from a single vineyard interplanted with 85% Trebbiano Toscano and 15% Garganega at 750 meters above sea level, the highest vineyard at the estate. The grapes are foot-trod, destemmed by hand, and fermented in open top containers on the skins for 8 days with daily punch downs. The wine is gently pressed and then held in contact with the lees for 10 months in steel tanks. What I particularly enjoy is that the wine manages to be both unctuous with flavors of honey, rich stone fruit, and lemon curd, but also has bright acidity and a really delicate texture with only 10.5% Alcohol. A slight note of pine resin pervades the wine and gives it a pleasant earthy dimension. I served it with a simple risotto, but it would be a great match for pork and fennel sausage, speck, or sheeps milk cheese. 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
High atop the Murge Plateau in Puglia, Cantine Carpentiere is a small family-owned winery that produces two indigenous Puglian grape varieties: Nero di Troia and Bombino Nero. Made from 70-year-old Bombino Nero vines, this is the only rosato in Southern Italy that has DOCG status. At 450 meters above sea level, the vineyards are rich in limestone and surrounded by stone walls originally built to protect local flocks of sheep. Tannins from the maceration process make this a great food wine, but it retains its freshness and acidity from the 5-6% of white grapes that are naturally included in each cluster of Bombino Nero. Ripe watermelon and wild strawberries with hints of pepper, try pairing it with a salmon salad, orecchiette with broccoli rabe or even a juicy burger. Christine Manula
High atop the Murge Plateau, Cantine Carpentiere is a small family-owned winery that produces two indigenous Puglian grape varieties: Nero di Troia and Bombino Nero. Uva di Troia is an ancient grape apparently named after the Puglian town of Troia, which was founded after the siege of ancient Troy. Carpentiere’s Nero di Troia is on the lighter side of some of their neighbors, with raspberry, cranberry and a hint of spice and vanilla on the nose. It starts off quite floral and develops into a more rustic wine as it opens, with touches of cranberry, rose petals, spice and smoky cloves. I think this is a great summer red and perfect for barbecuing ribs, burgers or a hanger steak. Christine Manula
The 2016 vintage of Cirelli rosato is another great vintage of one of our favorite Italian rosatos. Made from a two hectare parcel of organically farmed Montepulciano planted on calcareous clay soil, the grapes are crushed, briefly macerated, fermented in stainless steel, and rested for three months before release. The result is a dry rosato with rich red color and that is bursting with aromas of Fuji apples and strawberries, ripe Cara Cara oranges, pink floral tones, and a pleasant hint of chlorophyll. The palate is full and smooth, with crisp acidity and very little tannin, showing more pithy citrus notes, tart apples, and juicy red fruit. Try it with grilled chicken, citrus salad, soft cheeses, or pork sausage. Andy Paynter
Dry Lambrusco rosato still seems to be a bit of a rarity, which is baffling when examples like Corte Paglieri’s rosato are available. A deep bronze-hued ruby, the aromas of the wine practically jump out of the glass showing rhubarb, tart cherries, citrus zest with a deep violet floral tone. The palate is crisp, almost searingly so with out food, with a very delicate bubble and very low tannin, and notes of peaches and juicy strawberries. While not suited to the richest foods, this would be a perfect match for soft cheese, bitter veggies like fiddle head ferns, fatty fish, roast chicken, or pork chops with rhubarb compote. Andy Paynter
Defino comes from organically farmed grapes (a friend who is one of Tuscany’s best winemakers consults on the winemaking), and it’s a really lovely fresh red, light and juicy but with plenty of intensity on the palate. This is on the short list for the ultimate pizza wine, but really we mean that in reference to: “it’s Tuesday night, and we want a glass of something delicious that doesn’t break the bank”. Actually Frappato is a terrific food wine — a red-wine-with-fish wine, and very versatile.
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
In my experience, the Sagrantino grape can produce some fairly stern, even forbidding, wines; the naturally very high tannins can seem unwieldy. That's not the case with Fongoli’s 2009 Sagrantino di Montefalco. As fourth generation winemakers working with Umbria’s fiercest red grape, they have made a wine more elegant than unwieldy. The wine is fermented in cement, raised in old 500L Slavonian oak barrels for three years, bottled unfined and unfiltered, and then rested for an additional three years. Rich on the nose with deep hedge fruits tinged by aromas of bay and cedar, floral notes of violets and rose, it also conveys a ferrous quality. The palate is full and structured but the tannins are ripe and round, mellowed by age and long passage in barrel. The berry aromas suggested on the nose follow through on the palate braced by earthy notes with a pleasant hint of anise on the finish. Drinking well now (Angelo advised it will be best with 3-4 hours open), this wine will certainly have a long life ahead of it. Serve with grilled steak, pork chops in wine sauce, rich game dishes, or charcuterie. Andy Paynter
(PRE ARRIVAL 8/4/17) I Custodi 2014 Alnus Rosato is a fascinating wine from a relatively cool and challenging vintage. The cuvée is made from a selection of young-vines Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio on the north face of Mount Etna. Fairly deep ruby red in the glass, the nose is distinctly savory; it smells more overtly of sea spray, wet stones, and anise than it does of fruit. The palate is quite light with a definite saline character, bright acidity, tart cranberries and strawberries, with a very mineral finish. A touch austere on its own, this rosé is a great match for a wide range of foods: try it with Salad Niçoise, poached fish, speck, briny cheese, or Greek salad. 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
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
Of the many expressions of Aglianico produced by our friends at Madonna Delle Grazie, the Sagaris Rosato might be the most fun. The grapes are gently crushed and macerated briefly (usually about 8-10 hours) to avoid extracting too much color; fermentation occurs slowly in neutral vessels, and the wine is bottled after light filtration. Bright salmon pink in the glass, the wine shows ripe red cherries and strawberries on the nose, backed by minty herbal tones and a touch of moist earth. It is juicy and quite full bodied with fresh acidity and light but noticeable tannin. Try it with grilled lamb sirloin, roasted game bird, charcuterie, roasted mushrooms, or burgers. Andy Paynter
As with Amarone, Sforzato is very labor-intensive: the drying grapes must be carefully tended every day to prevent mold, and of course the drying process results in much less wine. The Valtellina’s cliff-like vineyards require so much work (an hour of labor in the relatively gentle hills of the Veneto is the equivalent of 6 hours in the Valtellina) that the wines are never inexpensive, but we love good Sforzato. For one thing the higher acidity of Nebbiolo gives the wine some lift and brightness that makes them a bit easier to drink. The trick is to get the complexity and concentration that comes with drying the grapes, but to avoid cooked and stewed flavors – not a simple accomplishment. Alberto Marsetti is a very small producer. He’s one of the few in the region to forgo small new oak for aging his wines, and the results are very fine and pure. Sforzato needs some time in bottle, and the 2006 is now beginning to show its stuff.
Masseria del Pino’s I Nove Fratelli is a great example of why people get so excited about the wines of Mount Etna. Produced from one hectare of organically farmed 120 year-old bush trained vines of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, the wine is elegant and frankly delicious. The nose shows a smoky character up front with layers of tart black cherries and black raspberries over crushed violets and dusty earth. The palate is structured but lifted by bright acidity with flavors of ripe cherry fruit, blood orange,and woody herbs; I’d like to avoid any kind of pandering cliché here, but the wine tastes like it was made on the side of a volcano – like sun-baked lava – which a lot more tasty than it might sound. The tannins are bold and ripe but fade harmoniously towards a grippy mineral finish. I would recommend decanting for a few hours to enjoy this wine at its very best. Try it with fennel stuffed pork loin, roast game bird, grilled sausages, cured cheese, or rich mushroom dishes. Andy Paynter He took the words out of my mouth! Tasting notes are subjective, but Andy and I seem to agree about this one pretty much down the line (although for fruit analogs I was more on blackberry and cranberry). Also, I think this (like many of the other best wines from Etna) is very versatile when it comes to food pairings; I don’t disagree with Andy’s suggestions (he’s a damn fine home cook, btw), but you shouldn’t feel limited by them. Last night we had grilled swordfish with a sauce of fresh tomato, capers, and herbs, and it was a great match – our guests, who are not wine people, seemed to love it. Jamie Wolff
One of our favorite Italian winemakers is actually American. Michael Schmelzer moved to Italy in 2003 with his family and purchased 10 hectares of organic vineyards in the "belly button of Chianti Classico" at Monte Bernardi. Since that time he has branched out and started making wines from Sicilian grapes as well. This spring he introduced his Tetra Pak Rosato which is made from 100% Nero d'Avola grapes. Don't let the vibrant pink carton fool you. It's more subtle on the inside - fresh and energetic with great acidity and a slight grip. Raspberry, strawberry, and fresh watermelon fruit make this the perfect beach or picnic wine. An added bonus is that Tetra Pak cartons use 54% less energy, create 80% less greenhouse gasses, and produce 60% less solid waste volume than a 750ml glass wine bottle. So you can celebrate summer and save the environment. Christine Manula
Vinified and aged identically to “Neccio”; together the two wines present a clear case for Cesanese’s transparency in reflecting terroir. The Ca’Litro vineyard soils are made up of white sandstone, and this is the most structured and full-bodied of the Riccardi-Reale wines. Dark and tart brambly berries, quite floral, eucalyptus, bigger tannins. (My favorite!) Christine Manula
We’ve met Maria Teresa several times at Angiolino Maule’s fantastic natural wine fair, Villa Favorita. She’s the image of a charming southern Italian lady with a broad smile and an aura of generosity and hospitality. We finally made the decision to buy some of her wines, and we couldn’t be happier with how they’re showing. This is an Aglianico from vineyards close to the Roccamonfina nature reserve, among Starnalia’s almost 100 acres of organic grapes, olives and chestnuts. The 2010 has delicious flavors of dark plum and a deep, spicy mineral presence. The Aglianico’s formidable tannins and vibrant acidity have been tamed by extra age in the bottle — drink now with hearty, red sauces and other rustic Italian fare. John Rankin
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