If you live in the Northeast, I hope you are safe and that the aftermath of the storm that swept through yesterday is minimal. To everyone else across the nation, enjoy living in places where you don’t have to survive a “snowmageddon.” Last night the people of the East Coast collectively hunkered down, some with family other with friends. Fortunately I thought to pick up a few bottles of wine from IWM before heading back to my house, so my friends and I were well equipped. One of those bottles was the Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa Dolcetto d’Alba 2013.
Many of you are likely familiar with the name Bruno Giacosa. Both the estate and the man are revered worldwide for crafting the finest Barbarescos and exquisite Barolos. But what you may not know is that this iconic producer makes some everyday selections that are more approachable both in style and price, for example the delightful Dolcetto that I enjoyed last evening.
Dolcetto translates roughly to “little sweet one.” However, this is by no means a sweet wine. It is a fruit-driven bottling that bursts from the glass with fruit and spice, all balanced by a bright acidity. People often call Dolcetto the perfect “pizza wine,” so I would also like to throw a shout out to Saks Pizza in Astoria for supplying the meal that so perfectly complemented this Giacosa wine.
Casa Vinicola Bruno Giacosa is the name under which Giacosa bottles its négociant wine. In other words, the Giacosa estate does not own these vineyards, but it does hand select the grape bunches from vines grown by farmers whom they contract year after year. If you understand the history of the estate, this négociant arm is no surprise. Giacosa made wine long before he could afford his own property, and he still carries on this tradition decades later, despite having his own holdings.
This Dolcetto is nothing but a joy, and while I would not wish being “snowed in” on anyone, you might want this wine on hand the next time it happens. We have three cases left at $28.99 per bottle; do not miss out!
It’s no secret that I love the wines of Josko Gravner. I find them to be mysterious, wondrous things. They try my skills with words, ultimately showing how badly words will always fail when confronted with an ineffable physical experience. The best analogy I can summon—and it’s an egregious failure—is that they feel like drinking wet, salty, silk velvet, but only if that velvet is shot with stars and imbued with magic.
There is wine, and then there is Gravner, in my opinion. I know I’m not entirely alone in this distinction, but I also realize that I am in the minority. Last week, I had the opportunity to meet Josko, to attend a seminar that was led by Sergio Esposito and featured seven vintages of his Ribolla, and, later, to have dinner with him and his daughter Mateja. I don’t speak Italian; Josko doesn’t speak English. Frankly, just being in his presence and hearing his words as translated by Sergio or Mateja was enough.
Wine is something that we often try to understand by categorizing it, by affixing metaphoric labels, or by describing the way it was made. In this way, the way humans come to hold the mystery of wine in our heads is a lot like the way that astronomers come to hold the secrets of the stars, planets and moons in theirs. It’s an awful lot to ask one small human to hold the entire cosmos in his or her head, but break it down into galaxies, solar systems, and orbits, and we can begin to get a grasp.
A great wine is much like this process. This past week, NY Times wine writer Eric Asimov addressed this question with his post, “The Romance of Wine.” In this piece, he juxtaposes the nitty-gritty queries he receives on a daily basis—when should you drink a 2010 Barolo? What do you pair with spicy food—with the inexpressible experience of drinking wine. Asimov writes:
Great wine by its nature is mysterious, unpredictable and perhaps ultimately unknowable. We understand a lot about it, and yet so much is unresolved. How does a wine express a sense of place, subject to minute differences of terroir? How does it evolve and become complex with time? I embrace these and many other uncertainties, which requires me to give up the illusion of omniscient expertise that is so often conferred to wine writers.
The key word in that passage is “unknowable.” Because wine is a living thing, it changes and it shifts, it morphs and it mellows, it lives and it dies. A supermarket wine may not achieve the Pinocchio apotheosis of being “a real boy!” but drinking a wine like one made by Josko Gravner, or Mascarello, or Biondi-Santi, or Fiorano, or any number of great producers feels like getting to know a person. Like a person, these wines are unpredictable, and like a person, they are ultimately unknowable.
In conversation, Gravner says that he doesn’t understand all the questions about his protocol. He grows great grapes, he puts the grapes in a giant clay jar, he keeps them there. After some time, he removes them and puts them in a big wood vat, he keeps them there, and after more time, he puts them in a bottle. That’s more or less it. What Gravner knows—and what most of us have yet to comprehend—is that the protocol is not the wine. The protocol makes the wine, but the wine itself is mystery.
Appreciate it, and embrace the romance. It’s a very beautiful thing.
The Côte de Nuits is the paradise of Pinot Noir. Nestled between Vosne-Romanée and Chambolle-Musigny, the Clos de Vougeot, both the smallest commune and largest clos in the Cote d’Or, is intimately tied to the history of Burgundy’s viticulture. Protected by walls built five centuries ago, Clos de Vougeot consists of 50 hectares of vineyards owned by 82 owners, and six types of soil. Above all, this plot is best known for its outstanding red wines!
Today I chose to highlight expressions from the renowned Louis Jadot estate, providing a nice introduction to Jadot’s gorgeous wine before our dinner tomorrow evening with winemaker Frédéric Barnier! Few know and understand Burgundian terroir like Jadot, and these bottles offer classic representations of what one would expect from this special walled vineyard—depth, weight, texture, elegance and finesse.
From the warm and cheery 2009 vintage, this wine offers bright, expressive aromas with notes of warm earth and ripe red currants giving way to detailed and slightly austere flavors of black cherry and earth with hints of spice. The wine shows remarkable freshness and will continue to grow more elegant with time.
Louis Jadot Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru 1985 1.5L $825
Beautifully mature, this legendary wine offered power and depth in its youth which has softened over time, blossoming into a soft and elegant wine offering lovely aromas and flavors of herbs, dried flowers, faint red fruit and mushroomy earth notes. I find it fascinating to taste wines in stages as they evolve, especially from larger format bottles as the wines age with additional grace. This magnum will not disappoint.
When your week starts with a holiday, segues into personal journey into the heart of Montalcino, and finishes with seven vintages of Gravner, it has been one worthy of wine adjectives: dense, intense, complex, powerful, and heady. On his trip to Italy, David Bertot visited Il Palazzone, so his Go-To-Wine Tuesday post on Rosso del Palazzone, the estate’s answer to Rosso di Montalcino, isn’t just about this delicious wine; it’s also about his experience visiting the land whence it came. Speaking of Montalcino, Robin Kelley O’Connor gives us the insider’s view into the 2010 Brunello and 2013 Rosso di Montalcino! And Crystal finishes the week with her experience drinking a seven-vintage vertical of Gravner Ribolla Anfora, and her thoughts on what foods might match these peerless wines.
Our Experts showed a similar drive, verve and focus this week. Garrett Kowalsky picked a pair of dessert wines to deliciously punctuate your meal, one from Antinori’s outpost in Umbria and the other from the Veneto. Looking to Bordeaux and the wines inspired by this hallowed region, David Gwo selected two beauties, a Bordeaux-style blend from Tenuta Leonardo and a 2009 Bordeaux from Chateau Belair-Monange. Maybe it’s the mountain air in Aspen, but Francesco Vigorito is drawn to the vintage whites from one Alto-Adige collective, Cantina Terlano. Aficionados of mature white wines don’t want to miss these 30-year-old whites!
Cheers to your week, your wine, and your enjoying both, preferably in the company of people you love.
White wine with red meat? I say yes—when the wine in question is made by Josko Gravner. These magical golden wines from Friuli are fascinating on their own, and they’re even more enticing when paired with food. They are some of the most versatile wines I have ever tasted. Not only do I enjoy partaking in these wines but also I take great pleasure in playing with spices, herbs, textures and proteins to bring out different flavors and nuances in these special wines. Similar to great red wines, Gravner’s Ribolla promise vitality and are destined to live a long life through their acidity and tannins.
Friuli’s Josko Gravner is an iconoclastic producer; he’s ever evolving and constantly refining his embrace of a “new-old” approach in his winemaking. Gravner’s passion for perfection through experimentation changed his philosophy; today he strives to achieve great wine through great simplicity, retaining the unique character and of each vintage, the integrity of his grapes and most importantly the “life” that exists in each amphorae and bottle of wine.
I had a great privilege of meeting Josko this week at an event hosted by Domaine Select, tasting through seven vintages of his prized Ribolla Gialla, 1998 through 2006. These mysterious Ribolla wines aren’t always instantly scrumptious; instead they slowly draw you in, evolving with time. Drinking them is similar to the feeling I get when a book or a movie starts slowly then gradually draws me in, and next think you know I’m hooked. These cerebral Ribollas require an open mind and time to observe and appreciate the life that each bottle has to offer.
The majority of the time people pair wine to go with their food; however, when a bottle of Gravner is involved, I believe it should go the other way around. Indigenous to Friuli, Ribolla is a somewhat obscure grape, but Gravner’s natural approach and use of amphorae give the wines weighted layers of earth, fruit and spice. When I think of pairings for Gravner’s indescribable amber wines, I immediately go to foods that will play off their texture, fruit and spice, while matching their weight and intensity. I encourage you to try it with anything from a simple steak and eggs or oven roasted chicken to French cassoulet, mushroom risotto, adobo pork, veal blanquette or ossobucco. The bottom line is to have fun and indulge all of your senses to experience the full breadth of what these special Ribolla wines can offer.
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