The frost has yet to hit the pumpkin in the greater Tri-State area, but fall is definitely in the air. This week, Julia Punj makes a compelling argument for Nebbiolo as fall’s grape–and she includes a recipe to help you usher in this season of scarves, sweaters, and rustling leaves. Garrett Kowalsky, on the other hand, warms up with Chianti Classico Riserva in this week’s go-to wine post; he makes this $35 Riserva bottling from Castello di Selvole sound like heaven. We began the week with a visit to Tenuta San Guido, the maker of Sassicaia and the birthplace of the Super-Tuscan revolution, and we closed it with a look at decanting wine–how to, what you get out of it, and when you should.
Our experts were similarly excited about the changing seasons, although they expressed it in very individual ways. Crystal Edgar looked to the Rhône Valley’s M. Chapoutier for a pair of super-expressive recent Hermitage bottlings. Like Crystal, Michael Adler also looked to theRhône, but he selected his wines from Domaine du Pegau for pure Châteauneuf-du-Pape delight. Italy-born-and-raised, Will Di Nunzio chose two emblematic wines from Italy that could not be more different, Prosecco and Barolo. And John Camacho Vidal took his cue from Super-Tuscan wines, selecting one from Le Macchiole and one from Angelo Gaja’s Ca’ Marcanda estate, both in Bolgheri.
This Monday is Columbus Day, and IWM’s offices and stores will be closed. We hope that you will spend your holiday as we will: with loved ones, great food, and terrific wine!
For many years the notion of decanting to remove sediment from wine was pretty much conventional wisdom. However, wisdom has changed and today the application of decanting has shifted. Rather than being a method of removing sediment, decanting now is a method of aeration because so much of the wine we drink today is young. The philosophy behind decanting has changed, but controversy has remained. We’ve heard many heated discussions on the topic from highly credible sources, so today we’ll try to provide some practical understanding of this confusing subject.
Decanting, in its purest form, should be executed for mature big red wines that will “throw” sediment, which is to say that there is matter in the bottle that has separated from the liquid and can be removed by carefully and slowly pouring the wine into a decanter. Using a light source underneath the bottle allows the pourer to see when the sediment is moving into the liquid, and the pourer should stop decanting at the point when he or she can see the sediment approaching the neck of the bottle. If there is a desire to get every drop of liquid out, the pourer can filter the remaining wine into a separate glass.
This method of decanting had been the traditional method of decanting over the years. However, both the method and the market has changed. For a long time the fine wine market was enjoyed by a very small group of individuals who had well-stocked cellars that enabled them to drink mature wines. Today wine has become a part of everyone’s culture. And the dynamic is very different.
In the US today 80% of wine is consumed within 48 hours of purchase, and 98% within six months. The bottles are consumed in their youth, before they have had an opportunity to mature. Here the process of decanting is executed to aerate the wine, not to remove sediment. Fortunately the wine community has come to understand the benefits of aeration. A group that was once somewhat divided between a traditional sediment-separating approach and a contemporary aeration approach has reached an accord. We decant. We open bottles ahead of time, double decant and some even garishly violently decant (which is where most controversy springs from today). Most young wines will not be hurt by oxygenation over a short period of time, and many will benefit. Perhaps our reference point should be changed all together. Perhaps the question should be: “Which wines shouldn’t be decanted?”
There is a very simple answer. Most sparkling wines should be consumed out of the original vessel to maintain their effervescence. Older vintages or delicate wines should always be treated with reverence. And among more esoteric wines, there will be bottle variation that will require attention to the unique state of that vessel and may very well need to be handled as little as possible.
At the end of the day, most enthusiastic wine drinkers just want to know if they can get out their new Riedel decanter with the crystal aerator and watch the show. They might even want the sommelier to make the experience a bit more special. The question is should I tumble that young wine? Yes, you should. The presentation is always more thoughtful and the wine may taste better. Do you need any other reasons? Probably not.
Two of the most influential and historic Italian wines you can find are on extreme opposite sides of the spectrum: Prosecco and Barolo. Prosecco is one of the most ancient varietals grown and consumed in Italy—people have been drinking its wines for a few thousand years, actually—yet it’s almost always regarded as the ugly stepsister to Champagne or Spumante. Well, nay I say, Prosecco is a gorgeous little wine. Affordable yes, but that makes it even better. The beginning of every party in Italy, Prosecc’s bubbles bring happiness, and it’s the beverage of choice for “aperitivo” in Italy, so it gets the hunger going as well.
This week I enjoyed a glorious 10-year-old Barolo. Considered to be the most important wine of Italy by the average Italian, Barolo is the wine Italians open on 18th birthday parties, wedding days, anniversaries—you name it. If the occasion is important, Barolo gets opened; it’s a ritual, a process, and there is much gratitude by the participants. Barolo is an icon. It’s elegant, luxurious, smooth and noble; it’s a wine that you can bet you’ll keep enjoying over and over again throughout the years. I’ve chosen an emblematic Prosecco and that bottle of decade-old Barolo to share with you today.
Drinking a bottle of this Prosecco recently, I was impressed with Fantinel’s work, very impressed actually. I had forgotten how beautifully playful this wine is—it’s so pretty, with delicate bubbles, fresh flowers and peaches. Some citrus notes dance around in the glass as you sip, and you are instantly revived and happy when you taste it. It was an unexpected experience for me, and I was delighted. The Fantinel family began as restaurateurs and they have made quite a name for themselves since patriarch Marco Fantinel first purchased his vineyards in 1969. This Prosecco reminded me of how incredible a winemaker Fantinel is.
My first month at IWM so many years ago, I remember being struck by a wine from Rocche Manzoni. At the time, we had a selection of Barolos from the mid-to-late ‘90s, and they were simply incredible. I could not believe the quality-to-price value these wines delivered, and all these years later, I still can’t. To no surprise, the 2005 Vigna Roul was exactly what I wanted: it’s smooth, elegant, balanced, properly aged, and a vintage I love. Barolo doesn’t get much better than this! All three of Rocche dei Manzoni’s Barolos—the estate’s Big d’Big, St Stefano and Roul—are phenomenal bottles of wine to pick up for the season ahead.
Fall has the most magical look in Aspen. The groves of shimmering green trees turn to yellow and set the mountains ablaze with color. And this color change means that it’s time to drink red wine. Fall reds are tricky; I feel the need to keep summer alive, but I also have the desire to embrace winter. For me, autumn usually means Nebbiolo wines. I consider the Nebbiolo grape the most interesting of Italian red grapes and I associate it with the autumnal season—for one thing, the grape gets it name from the dense October fog that settles over the vineyards!
I’ve long loved the Nebbiolo grape, not only for its earthy nose, but also for its robust characteristics. Before I had any formal wine education, I had the privilege to travel to Piemonte multiple times. I’ve seen the rolling hills and the nebulous fog. I’ve drunk the different Barolo and Barbaresco vintages and I smelled the centuries-old cellars. Without any knowledge about the grape or the wine, I was able to appreciate Nebbiolo with an innocent palate. My most recent trip was with my sister; we were driving a badass sports car from Umbria to Milan and decided a detour into Piemonte was in order. We drove into the hills of Alba in the afternoon with no place to stay and no understanding of the language. We parked and began walking the cobbled streets. As we passed a restaurant before it opened, the chef called out to us, and after a confused conversation, we had an amazing place to stay and a fantastic meal. Later that night in a small restaurant with wooden benches and walls cluttered with years of wine bottles, the chef brought us a Barolo Risotto that literally changed the course of my life.
The beauty of Nebbiolo is that it is so terroir-driven and so expressive that it changes drastically depending on where it is grown and what winemaking techniques the producer uses. However flexible, Nebbiolo has a very distinctive quality so that it can easily be distinguished from any other grape on the planet. Whether it’s a Barolo, Barbaresco, Langhe Rosso or a Nebbiolo blend, wine made with Nebbiolo is distinctive because of its nose of tar and flowers, its slight medicinal note, its light color, and its deep fruit and tobacco finish. Additionally, Nebbiolo has an uncanny ability to age. A young Nebbiolo wine is drinkable, of course, but the nuances that it will develop over time are incomparable. Nebbiolo’s tannin and acidity are the backbone of its aging ability and a reason why this wine is such a fall affair.
The pairing of Nebbiolo to fall is a perfect one because the dark fruit flavors and earthy tones remind me of decaying leaves and the smell of the chill in the air. The thick skins of the Nebbiolo grape create a tannic structure that pairs well with the heavier fall foods such as ragu, braised meats, pastas and, of course, risotto. Risotto was one of the first Italian dished I learned how to make and it still influences my Mediterranean culinary style. To toast to the new fall season, open a bottle of Nebbiolo and drink it while experimenting with my Barolo Risotto Recipe.
Julia’s Barolo Risotto
3 tbs good quality olive oil
1 clove garlic
¼ cup dry vermouth
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups veggie stock
2 cups Barolo wine
1 tbs butter
Salt and pepper
Heat the stock in a separate pan or kettle so that it’s simmering when you’re ready for it.
Put the olive oil in a thick-bottomed risotto pan, on medium-low heat. Mince the garlic and add to the oil. One soft, add the rice and stir to coat each grain with the oil. This protects the rice grain and allows for the starch to generate slowly.
Once the rice has been coated deglaze with the vermouth. Some people use wine at this point, but I like the herbaceous quality that the vermouth creates. Let the vermouth reduce with a simmer at medium-high heat. Season with salt, but not too much.
Pour a cup of simmering stock onto the rice; stirring slowly and constantly, let the stock become absorbed by the rice. Before the bottom of the pan goes dry add another cup of stock. Continue to stir constantly. The consistent agitation of the rice allows the starch to come out and create the creamy texture so desired in risotto. One the second cup of stock has been absorbed, add a cup of wine. Continue to add cups of stock and wine until the rice is al dente, but always end on the wine. Turn off the heat and season with the salt and pepper to taste. Add the tablespoon of butter to mount the rice. Serve immediately.
This weekend I focused on Super Tuscans, a style of wine that producers interpret in many ways. One way to understand this group of wines is that they are the Grand Prix of Tuscan enology where all aspects and techniques of winemaking are pushed to the limits to enhance the expression of terroir. Another is that Super Tuscans express a free interpretation of a given area in Tuscany whose winemakers explore the territory beyond the bureaucratic restrictions of DOC and DOCG.
One pioneer that is an example of the above statements is Le Macchiole, established in 1983 by Eugenio Campolmi and one of the major players in the Super-Tuscan movement. Eugenio realized that the best way to make his wine was to make mono-varietal wines that expressed their terroir. The estate believes that wine is made in the vineyard, but the management of the cellar is crucial in achieving quality wine. I tasted the 1999 Scrio, which is starting to enter its drinking window, and I was blown away. While Le Macchiole is an old player in Bolgheri, Angelo Gaja is relatively new to the Super-Tuscan movement. Angelo Gaja is known as a great winemaker, but he’s also know as a rebel and someone who does not necessarily follow the rules of DOC and DOCG, so it’s only natural that he produces Super-Tuscan wine. I tasted the Ca’ Marcanda (Gaja) Camarcanda 2010, and although it’s still rather young, it shows how spectacular it’s going to be with some age.
This ’10 Super Tuscan bursts with plums, and blackberry, blueberry followed by notes of earth and leather and sweet balsamic. The tannins are silky smooth, and the wine nearly crackles with noticeable acidity that will integrate nicely with time—a baby, this wine is still a bit tight. Patience will reward with this wine. Drink 2017-2025.
Le Machciole makes its mono-varietal Syrah in limited quantities that never exceed 5,000 bottles. The word “Scrio” has Tuscan origins and it translates to “pure,” “sincere,” or “upright,” and this wine is all that with aromas of dark red fruit, mocha, chocolate, earth spice and mineral. Sporting a full, powerful mouth-feel with sweet tannins that have integrated nicely, this wine reveals new aromas and flavors with every sip and ends in a lovely, lingering finish. Drink now.
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