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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
It is a real treat to find a deep, savory Barbera that hasn't been clouded by new oak. The 2011 Clerico Barbera d’Alba is just such a wine. The nose is complex with notes of dark red berry fruit and black plums followed by violets, sweet spice, and a leafy undertone. Fairly full-bodied with a soft but present tannic structure, the palate is lifted by fresh acidity and more forward red fruit. Delicious on its own, it would pair wonderfully with pizza margherita, or pasta with chicken, tomatoes, and artichokes. Open early and enjoy! - Andy Paynter
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
Barbaresco: “Notu” was Fabio’s grandfather, and the name of the wine means “Notu followed the drops of water.” Although it may not be intended, the reference to water makes sense when you taste the wine, which has a kind of crystalline freshness and clarity that reminds one of spring water. Fabio writes: “48 months fining barrel (the wood Fabio use are not really “toasted,” but vaporized with specific volcanic hot rocks (no any creation of toxic elements after this treatment) and after unique mass for 6 months in porcelain jars (Fabio is the designer and the ceramist of his own porcelain jars; very probably the first one winemaker in the world that uses “no breathing ceramics” for winemaking). 1175 bottles made.”The 2011 is an edgy, dynamic wine, showing ripe fruit balanced by great lift and transparency. It stands out in the vintage, and it’s exciting to drink. Jamie Wolff
What we know: Giuseppe Mascarello, father of Mauro, was named after his grandfather. His father was Maurizio. I've been told that Natale was his (Giuseppe's) uncle. The Giuseppe Mascarello cantina was - and is - in Monchiero. From a logical and chronological point of view, it seems likely that Giuseppe (Mauro's father) made this wine.Maybe someone knows why - assuming I'm correct - the wine is labelled like this? Jamie Wolff
Oddero is one of just a handful of producers who made excellent wine in the past and who continue to do so now. Admittedly our opinion of their current vintages is biased, since we admire Oddero's fidelity to Barolo made in the traditional manner. Anyway, the old wines are great, and we're happy to have old vintages whenever we can.
In 2010 Chiara and Michele were living in Milan with their two young children when they decided to buy a small organic farm in Paderna and start making wine. They have 3.5 hectares made up of 10 small parcels of 15 to 100-year-old vines. The vineyards face both north and south at an altitude of about 300 meters, with soils rich in limestone and clay. For the Barbera Superiore, the grapes are destemmed and fermented in cement tanks. Maceration on the skins lasts 40 days depending on the year, with malolactic fermentation taking place in barrels. The wine spends 18 months in barrels and a minimum of 6 months in bottle before it is released. The result is a Barbera with a complex nose of black cherries and cloves. On the palate you get ripe black plums, violets, sage and dark chocolate. This is a really unique and interesting Barbera, and one that I will certainly be drinking more of! Christine Manula
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
Montestefano is one of the great Barbaresco vineyards, producing long-aging, structured wine. Prunotto was making very good wine in the 1980's. This should be a real treat.
Lovely wine with a deep penetrating nose of leather, spice, mineral, cherry and chestnut. Palate has great inner mouth aromas and nice juicy fruit. Great ripeness with good chewiness. Lovely stuff!
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
1988 is considered to be a very fine vintage in Montalcino.
I’ve learned in my short stint thus far in the wine industry to not look down on good fortune when it strikes. In this case it was on a recent trip to Italy that a bottle of Antonio Camillo Cilegiolo was ordered with great enthusiasm by another member of the table. What arrived was a wine that stands out from much of the wine of Maremma in the very best way; a wine made exclusively of a single native variety , organically farmed, fermented with native yeast, and judiciously spared new oak that was an absolute pleasure. Made from a 2 hectare plot of 50 year old vines this wine also stands out as the only varietal example of Cilegiolo I've had the chance to taste, which is a real shame as it is lovely. With aromas of roses, red plums, strawberries, woody herbs and a slight touch of black pepper the wine smells like it belongs in a garden on a hot summer day. The palate shows density without being cloying; notes of moist rich earth mingle with slightly dried red fruit and a whiff of oolong tea lifted by bright acidity and a surprising mineral finish. It is versatile as well, suited to a slight chill or a long decant and a perfect match to seared duck breast but equally fit for game, pork, mild cheese, vegetarian dishes, and rich tomato sauces. Andy Paynter
Fornacina 2011 Brunello is a rich wine from a ripe vintage showing slightly roasted black cherry fruit and notes of tobacco, rosemary, and tar. the palate is dense with plenty of tannin and mouthwatering acidity showing more overtly fruity than the nose with a slight ferrous touch on the finish. Drinking well now the wine will certainly continue to age for another 10 years. The estate was certified organic in 2004 and only produces the Brunello from their own grapes in a traditional style: native yeast fermentation, raised in Slavonian botti for 3 years, and rested in bottle for 1 year. Try it with leg of lamb, grilled steak, or especially rich pork dishes. Andy Paynter
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
L'Aietta's first vintage of Brunello was in 2001 conducted entirely by 18 year old Francesco Mulinari on 1 hectare of his fathers land that was already registered to the DOC. The vines have been worked without chemical intervention since that first vintage and beginning in 2002 Francesco began the process of replanting the land in the traditional Alberello training method. The Brunello is fermented with ambient yeast in stainless steel for 21 days, raised in Slavonian oak for 40 months, and bottled unfined and unfiltered. His 2011 Brunello is a great example of delicate wine-making in a difficult vintage showing a big wine with ripe tannins but with plenty of acidity and brambly cherry fruit that is fresh rather than jammy. Rather bold upon opening the wine softens with some time showing tones of moist earth and a distinctly floral character. Open early and enjoy now or cellar to enjoy down the road. 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
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
After graduating with a degree in Economics in 2003, Francesco decided he wanted to make wine and found a farm in the foothills of Abruzzo where his family was originally from. The first time he saw Agricola Cirelli he fell in love. It’s now an organic farm where there are vineyards, olive trees, garlic, spelt, wheat, barley, figs and geese. Francesco has two hectares of Trebbiano that are grown on calcium and clay soils. Both fermentation and aging are done in stainless steel, and the wine is not filtered or fined. The wine is straw yellow in color and tastes of waxy green apples, pear and cured lemon peel. Try it with shrimp and orzo salad, Vietnamese food or even a veal schnitzel. Christine Manula
Mirco and Gloria Gottardi starting making wine back in 2002 on the Saint Michael hills, just outside the town of Bassano del Grappa in Veneto. For almost 12 years their property was covered in scrub brush, but over the course of two years they managed to plant 50,000 vines and 1,000 olive trees on 12 hectares. The vines are densely planted on volcanic soil to insure low yields, and the nearby mountains create significant temperature shifts between day and night. Although Vespaiolo is more commonly used to make Breganze Torcolato, a sweet wine, it also makes a fantastic dry white. Straw yellow in color, it has an intense nose of white flowers and citrus fruit. It’s lush on the palate, but has enough acidity to keep it fresh and cut through richer dishes. Try pairing it with asparagus, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, or really anything you would want to drink white with – it’s super versatile and delicious! Christine Manula
Unfined and unfiltered and so a bit cloudy — this wine is one of only two Proseccos that we know about that’s made with indigenous yeasts — and it's also totally natural in terms farming and all aspects of the winemaking. This has a ton of character (especially considering how bland most Prosecco is) — a little grassy on the nose with pear and apple aromas, and somewhat yeasty. The wine is very dry and actually quite elegant, with a good long finish; it’s really intriguing, perhaps a bit challenging, but the more I taste it the more interesting it becomes.
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
La Stoppa’s Ageno cuveé is named for the original founder of the estate, Giancarlo Ageno, who planted the first vines here in the 19th century. Those cuttings, originally all french varieties, have since been replaced by varieties indigenous to the region in a process that also saw the estate convert to organic agriculture beginning in the 1990s. While certainly not made with the french varieties planted 100 years ago, the Ageno Bianco is a stunning wine. Primarily Malavasia di Candia Aromatica blended with Ortrugo and some Trebbiano, the wine is macerated for 30 days on the skins, rested for a year in a mix of stainless steel and old barrels followed by two years in bottle. The color is striking, showing deeply bronze and slightly turbid with some sediment, but still quite vibrant. The nose is, as you might expect from a grape called Aromatica, intense with deep ripe Cara Cara oranges, layers of baking spice and mid-bloom apple blossom with hints of honeycomb. The palate is dense, and there is a nice balance of fine-grained tannin with refreshing acidity. The wine is bone dry but not austere or astringent with very ripe citrus fruits, juicy yellow peaches and a long finish. Recently enjoyed with shrimp scampi, this wine would pair well with rich but not oily fish: think scallops seared in butter, monkfish torchon, or squid. Serve very slightly chilled and enjoy. Andy Paynter
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 fell in love with the Bonavita estate originally through their indomitable red wine, which is delicate, spicy, and intense. It is continuously one of the most fascinating reds I’ve tasted from Sicily. Happily, the rosato holds as much allure while being even more accessible. Fairly deep ruby for its quick maceration of 12 hours, the nose is packed with rich red fruit, purple florals, notes of cardamom and allspice or cinnamon with an undeniable freshness and lift. The wine is effusive on the palate with fresh strawberries, ripe cherries, and red apple skin, a persistent spiciness, and just a whisper of ripe tannin quickly relieved by bracing acidity. I find the wine mesmerizing and stellar with all kinds of food. 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
When Gabriele Marano decided to retire in 2000, his son-in-law Pietro Topi took interest in continuing the family’s legacy at Collebello. With some of the region's oldest and healthiest vines that had always been organically farmed, Pietro and his childhood friend Martino Taraschi built a modest winery in 2006 and began producing wine under the name Tenuta Terraviva, meaning “living earth”. They hired Claudia Galterio to give them a hand, one of Piemonte’s top new winemakers respected for her non-manipulative style. After a few vintages, they were finally making the wines they have envisioned, using only indigenous yeasts and very little sulphur. Intense ruby red in color and aromatic, with black berries, smooth tannins and earth. Perfect for pork and lamb dishes, as well as hot and spicy peppers. And of course, any kind of pasta with red sauce. Christine Manula
As always, the 2016 is vibrant, complex, and a great expression of the terroir of Etna. The wine is a fairly deep shade of ruby tinged pink, with aromas that burst from the glass. Vivid wild floral tones mix with notes of sage brush over blood orange juice, yellow peaches, and strawberries on the nose. The palate has some density cut by tart fruit tones of red apple skin and pomegranate, with a whisper of tannin and a stern mineral focus. For me Susucaru is a wine that would suit an endless variety of food. Try it with tuna tartar, Shawarma, Tandoori chicken, sharp cheese, falafel, or a classic greek salad. 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
Cos Pithos Rosso is always one of my favorite wines to drink during a big meal with plenty of courses. Made from 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato raised in amphora, the 2014 is stunning, showing dark fruit, vibrant herbal tones and lift on the palate. The nose is very aromatic, led by bay spice and lavender with ferrous earth followed by rich dark red fruit. Medium weight on the palate with soft tannins and great acidity, it is more fruit-driven than the nose with dark red plums and red florals over a crisp mineral tone. Despite having great depth, the Pithos Rosso is ultimately a refreshing wine, perfect to cut through the richness of a Thanksgiving table; pair with herbed stuffing, game birds, turkey, or roast pork loin with wine sauce. Serve slightly chilled and enjoy. 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
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! Equally tasty lightly chilled for summer drinking. Karina Mackow
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
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
Montenidoli is a landmark estate in San Gimignano famous for producing some of the most characterful, organically farmed Vernaccia in the area. They also produce a wonderful rosato of 100% Canaiolo (a traditional blending partner for Sangiovese) that is always a treat on a hot summer day. The 2016 is a lovely bright peach hue with bright orchard fruit and wild flowers on the nose. The palate has a bit of a bite with notes of red apple skin and tart white peach but is lifted by crisp acidity and has a juicy, refreshing finish. Try it with light salads, chilled soups, soft cheese or enjoy on its own. Andy Paynter
Good Lagrein can remind us of northern Rhone Syrah, perhaps usually higher in acid and a bit more rustic. This one immediately made me think of Cornas, rich but with good acidity, earthy and mineral but with real elegance, a bit of meatiness, and olive and black cherry. It is altogether a remarkable expression of Lagrein, fine to drink now but likely even better after another couple of years. Jamie Wolff
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
Collepazzo is a blend of fruit grown on the two distinct soil types in the Riccardi-Reale vineyards: volcanic and sandstone. From biodynamic farming and straightforward vinification with indigenous yeasts; the wine spends nine months in cement and eight months in the bottle before being released. There are beautiful cherry / kirsch notes, along with some stone and clay, and light pepper and baking spices. There’s fruit on the palate but it’s savory and dry, with a thread of tannin, lots of lift and energy. Jamie Wolff
Saetti is wine that shows how deeply appealing natural wine can be when made with care; vinified completely without additives including SO2 it is not the least bit funky. It has a deep ruby color with a nose redolent of brambly red berries, dried violets, delicate hints of sweet spices, and a slight meaty tone. The wine is more frothy than it is fully sparkling, with a velvety texture cut by bright acidity with a slight tannic bite. On its own, it shows more overtly floral and quite juicy but, as a good Lambrusco should, it shines with food. Try it with charcuterie, pasta bolognese, pepperoni pizza, or as a match to any rich dish (burgers!). Andy Paynter
Vittorio Savino, owner of Fenicotteri, joined Foti’s small association of producers called i Vigneri (some of whose wines from Mt. Etna we always have on our shelves). I Vigneri offers unparalleled expertise in every aspect of viticulture and production (including the services of Ciccio, the group’s mule). Foti’s work at Gulfi, and his knowledge derived from the vines in Pachino must have been very valuable when trying to restore a vineyard that’s virtually on the shore of the lagoon. The farming is impeccable (only copper and sulfur and sheep manure are used on the bush-trained vines) but it’s the location that brings an incredibly compelling mineral and saline lift to the wine. It’s perhaps on the light side of medium-bodied, savory aromatics with typical plummy Nero d’Avola fruit, and in a perfectly balanced state for current drinking – fresh, with great cut and moderately tannic structure – entirely satisfying. Called Fenicotteri (flamingo, in Italian) after the migratory flamingoes who visit the lagoon next to the vineyard, this is one special wine. Jamie Wolff Eighty percent of the clusters are destemmed and crushed. It’s macerated for 14 days in steel vats, matures in used barriques for at least six months, and then spends six months in bottle before it’s released. The result is a beautiful Nero d’Avola, deep and dark. Tart red cherries and ripe blackberries, violets and earth with leather and spice on the finish. With medium high acid and medium tannins, this will be perfect to pair with gamey meats, BBQ, a hearty beef stew, roast turkey or even tuna steak. If you're a vegetarian, try it with lentils and shitake mushrooms. 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
Made from 100% Sangiovese grown in the hills of Romagna, brothers-in-law Davide and Mauro have been making Primo Segno together since 2005. Villa Venti is certified biodynamic and went completely solar-powered in 2010. They are working with four Sangiovese clones that are planted according to the type of clay found in the soil. Red clay, mixed with some sand, gives the wines structure and the sea breeze from 10 kilometers away creates a micro-climate that keeps the wines fresh. Bright ruby red, there is an intense nose of berries and violets. Crisp and juicy with good tannins and acidity, the Primo Segno is ready to drink now but will only improve with some age. Try it with braised rabbit pappardelle or lamb with rosemary. Christine Manula